If you feel PhD students should have a right to sick leave, please consider reading and signing our letter.
This is the letter as we plan to submit it. Please consider signing it. (See below for instructions.)
PhD students are an important part of academia, as they form a large part of the work force. Just like their post-doctoral colleagues, they collect and analyse data, and disseminate their findings in scientific journals and books. However, PhD students’ contracts are radically different: Most receive a stipend instead of a salary, and have very little rights to sick leave.
There are upsides to the current situation: It is cheaper than employing PhD candidates with a staff contract, and thus allows for more people to be trained. One major downside is highlighted in a recent issue of Nature, by three students who were diagnosed with cancer during their doctoral training (http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/539495e). In the UK, a PhD student’s funding tends to be suspended when they fall ill, resulting in a double whammy of serious illness and loss of income.
We, the undersigned, believe that PhD students should be better protected against loss of income and employment due to illness. Even within the UK grant system for doctoral training, there should be room to include sick leave arrangements in student contracts. We feel that 6 months of paid leave in case of serious illness should be offered with every funded PhD position.
Sign the letter
If you wish to sign the letter, please fill out the form below and click the Submit button. Alternatively, you can email your details to firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment below. The preferred format is: Firstname Lastname, MD, PhD; Professor of Examples, Department of Examples, University of Example, Example Country.
In a recent Correspondence to an academic journal, we pointed out that PhD students in the UK are likely to have their funding suspended when they fall ill. This means they lose their income, and are thus forced to continue working while ill, to depend on friends and family, or to quit their doctoral training. The situation is bad for all involved: PhD candidates are effectively punished for having a serious illness, supervisors’ projects are jeopardised, and science as a whole risks losing talented individuals. To increase the impact of our message, we plan to submit the above letter to a major UK newspaper.