Sick, Parental and other Exceptional Leave Policy
- This policy outlines the MPLS division’s policy for sick, bereavement and parental leave (henceforth referred to as ‘exceptional leave’ when referring to all categories) for Oxford-funded scholarship holders. As one of our primary funders, we use UKRI policy as a framework for funded leave. The relevant UKRI conditions relating to this can be found in on UKRI's webpage. This policy supports divisional compliance with UKRI training grant terms and conditions and ensures a consistent approach is taken in awarding funded extensions for exceptional reasons across MPLS departments for funded students.
- All funded students in MPLS should be supported during periods of ill health, parental leave and during bereavement. The division’s aim is to provide funded leave for all students in receipt of a UKRI or University scholarship. Where the student’s scholarship cannot provide a funding extension due to time off for ill health, the department should, wherever possible, underwrite the funding extension.
- Students who are funded by grants held at other institutions should refer to their funder terms and conditions in respect of funded leave.
- Any student within MPLS, regardless of how they are funded, is entitled to take time off from their study if they are sick, on compassionate grounds, or if they become a parent.
- Clear policies for exceptional leave are important to ensure parity of provision for funded students across the division, as well as complying with UKRI’s training grant terms and conditions. Students should be made aware of their entitlement to this leave.
- Administration and budgeting responsibility for UKRI exceptional leave is devolved to departments and CDTs and must be paid from either the CDT grant or DTP allocation. No funding will be reserved to cover exceptional leave for grants held by the divisional office (i.e. EPSRC training grants). Where a training grant is very small, and unlikely to be extended, the grant holder can request additional funds to cover sick leave; however, this would unlikely be granted for a CDT grant and certainly not for the EPSRC DTP, which is a rolling training grant. Provision for this must therefore be absorbed by the overall grant or the department’s allocation from that grant.
- For students funded from other University administered sources the department should check details in specific sections below (e.g. for Clarendon) or liaise with the appropriate administrative unit prior to agreeing funded leave.
Implementation guidance for sick leave
- Four weeks is the minimum period that can be claimed as funded sick leave. Normally a medical certificate must be provided in support of a claim. Approved claims will result in a commensurate extension to the funding end date for the studentship.
- Where a student is absent on grounds of illness for a period less than four weeks, their funding will continue but they will be expected to absorb the period of illness into the overall duration of their award. Where a short period of illness occurs within one month of the student’s submission date and within the funded period of their award, consideration may be given to additional support until the student is able to submit their thesis, up to a maximum of a period commensurate with the period of sickness.
- Where an illness delays, but does not entirely halt a student’s work then sick leave can be applied pro-rated. The four-week minimum period would still apply on a full-time equivalent basis. I.e. if a student has only been able to work at 50% capacity, they would need to have been sick for a total of eight weeks to claim sick leave. This can also apply to non-continuous illness arising from a single cause. Normally, for a pro-rata claim to be made, the delay should have arisen from a single cause over a period of time, but in exceptional cases illness over a period related to multiple causes may be considered.
- Normally a maximum of 13 weeks paid sick leave may be granted in a rolling twelve-month period and no more than 13 weeks of sick leave in any twelve-month period may be funded from UKRI sources. For MPLS research students the 12-month period will be taken to begin on the first day of the period of illness for which the sick leave is granted. The total period of agreed extensions must not normally exceed 12 months during the lifetime of an award.
- On return from sick leave, a phased return to study should be considered and can be supported through amendments to the funding package. If appropriate, the student should be offered the opportunity to change their mode of study (e.g. by a move to part-time). This should be in accordance with the University’s research degrees policy. Students should be given full information as to the effect on their stipend of any phased return or change of mode of study.
- Chronic illness (including mental health difficulties) may be dealt with as sick leave under this policy, in the absence of other provision, by applying pro-rated sick leave subject to the usual terms of the policy. Medical evidence related to chronic illness will normally only need to be provided once and consideration should be given as to whether this has already been provided (e.g. to the Disability Advisory Service). MPLS aspires to a full policy dealing with chronic illnesses in students, allowing for amendments to the overall studentship structure to accommodate the needs of the student. If such a policy is realised in future it will supersede this policy in how to deal with students with chronic illness.
- Students should request exceptional leave through their academic department or CDT/DTP directorate.
- Medical documentation is usually collected as part of any accompanying suspension of status, therefore, where the sick leave accompanies a medical suspension of status, the department can approve sick leave in parallel to this. In rare cases medical evidence is not supplied, and these should be dealt with in a case-by-case basis, acknowledging that medical evidence is a requirement for UKRI-funded students under UKRI training grant terms and conditions.
- In circumstances where sick pay is awarded, but the student does not suspend (i.e. for shorter periods of illness), the department should seek medical documentation and retain this for auditing purposes in accordance with their data retention policy.
- Incorporated students on CDT programmes must receive the same entitlements as students funded from the CDT grant. It is therefore the responsibility of the CDT to ensure that Incorporated students’ funding packages contain a provision for sick leave. If there is no other recourse to funds, the CDT responsible for the award is liable to cover sick leave.
- Aligned students do not have the same sick leave entitlement as CDT/Incorporated students and will be bound by the terms and conditions of their funder.
- Where a UKRI-funded student’s stipend is co-funded, the co-funder should be approached to cover their proportion of any exceptional leave awarded to the student. This is because UKRI will only fund leave in proportion with what they pay for the studentship.
- If the co-funder in unable to pay their proportion, responsibility will fall to the student’s department.
Parental leave (Maternity, Paternity and Adoption)
- The University parental leave policy outlines the approach for suspension for parental leave and recommendations for funded students.
- MPLS doctoral students who suspend for maternity leave are entitled to 26 weeks paid leave regardless of their current funding situation at the UKRI stipend level.
- In those cases where both parents are students, this financial support can be shared if it enables the student who gave birth to return to study in her MPLS department. Funding is available for students in years 1-4 of their programme.
- Where funding is not already provided for under a student’s existing grant arrangements eligibility for this funding can be found on the Funding for Parental Leave section of the MPLS webpage.
- There is no qualifying period for parental leave, and there is no limit on the number of periods of parental leave a student can take across the duration of their studentship.
- Students returning from parental leave should be supported back into study. In line with University policy on parental leave students are expected to indicate prior to taking leave that they intend to return to study. Within MPLS there is no minimum period for return to study following parental leave, however, in line with training grant conditions, UKRI-funded students will be liable to return any parental leave paid to them if they choose not to return to their studies.
- Students returning from parental leave should be supported in changing their mode of study to part-time (0.5 FTE) if appropriate or requested.
- Funding for parental leave should be provided via the student’s normal funding source wherever possible and must be compliant with the funder’s terms and conditions. If the normal funding source is unable to provide funding for parental leave, MPLS has a divisional parental leave fund. The fund is open to any student who is not able to access funding for parental leave, including students who are self-funded.
- In the case of same sex couples becoming parents, the student who gives birth to the child is entitled to take maternity leave, while their partner will be entitled to take paternity, extended paternity or shared parental leave. All provisions above will apply. If neither partner gives birth to the child, the provisions outline for adoption leave below shall apply.
- Arrangements for adoption leave usually parallel those made for maternity and paternity leave, in that the main carer takes ‘maternity leave’, regardless of gender, and the carer’s partner takes ‘paternity’ leave. All provisions above will apply.
- Compassionate leave may be sought for a number for reasons including, but not limited to bereavement or providing care for a sick dependent. Students requiring compassionate leave should receive support.
- Short periods of compassionate leave can be granted for periods of up to five days, for example to attend a funeral of a member of the student’s extended family or a close friend. The student’s funding will continue but they will be expected to absorb the period of compassionate leave into the overall duration of their award.
- In more acute cases, for example the death of a close family member, two weeks should normally be paid as funded compassionate leave. In exceptional circumstances, at the discretion of the department, paid compassionate leave can be extended up to one month. In these cases, the studentship should be extended to offset the period of compassionate leave taken.
- If a longer period is required, compassionate leave should be granted accompanied by a suspension of status. However, no additional funding should ordinarily be awarded beyond the initial one month.
- Where the cause of the student’s compassionate leave has had a detrimental impact on a student’s mental health, for which medical evidence can be obtained, this can be treated as sick leave for the student.
Administration of exceptional leave
- Departments are required to draw any funding for exceptional leave from the relevant training grant (or their departmental allocation for the EPSRC DTP).
- Payments for exceptional leave on UKRI grants should be clearly identified on Oracle grants on a separate project subtask. This is important for reporting to UKRI and for reconciling grants for the Final Expenditure Statement (FES).
- Extensions resulting from exceptional leave must also be reported on the student’s JeS record within four weeks of the exceptional leave being granted.
Exceptional leave for other funded students
- Clarendon-funded students can apply for an extension due to exceptional leave (e.g. for periods of ill health), which will be paid at the end of their funding as an extension to their scholarship. The maximum level of extension for illness will be aligned to the UKRI maximum (i.e. 13 weeks in a 12-month period). The department can approve this extension and inform the MPLS Graduate Funding Officer, who will request that Student Fees and Funding disburse the extension and issue a variation letter. In cases where the student requests an extension through the Clarendon Administrator in Student Fees and Funding, the Clarendon Administrator will refer the request to the MPLS Graduate Funding Officer to gain approval from the department.
- Exceptional leave for other University-funded students can be awarded on a case-by-case basis. This is dependent on what reserves are held by particular scholarship funds (which is variable) and there is no central University sick pay entitlement that applies to all funded students.
- As there is no central sick leave entitlement for University-funded students, any funding extension for these students will be awarded as an extension due to exceptional or extenuating circumstances, and will not be referred to as ‘sick leave’.
- Clarendon students are also entitled to two terms paid parental leave, when it accompanies a suspension. This entitlement is not currently extended to all centrally-administered University scholarships, but extending the entitlement is under consideration. MPLS supports adequate provision being made centrally for all student parents.
- Where a Clarendon student is co-funded by a college partnership award, the default position is that the Clarendon fund will cover the whole extension.
- Where a Clarendon student is co-funded by UKRI, the extension will be split according to the normal funding ratio of the studentship.
Version 1.1, September 2023
Please direct any queries to firstname.lastname@example.org