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The University of Southampton
Working as a Researcher

Parental leave

Are you thinking about starting a family? Or perhaps adopting? Do you have young children already?  Even if babies are not for you, perhaps one of your colleagues has become a parent.

One big challenge for research staff - men as well as women - can be that of starting a family. It is important to remember there is never a right or wrong time to have children in terms of your career. So, do not believe you have to delay starting your family or  not having one at all, if you wish to pursue an academic career (see the videos on our Women in Academia page) 

Parental leave and any subsequent part-time working can cut into your research time, publications and other activities. You will need dexterity and good diplomatic skills to keep up with external pursuits such as conferences or fieldwork. But there are many women (and men) among the University's academic staff who can demonstrate that work and parenthood can be successfully balanced.

Think about steps you could take. For example, can you delegate work, work from home, stack activities alongside childcare, or set aside regular blocks of working time (no matter how short) to keep up to date? Or simply take a step back and reduce your hours for a while? 

You may need to be away from the campus for an extended period. This might be due, for example, to parental leave or to a serious illness affecting yourself or a family member. With plenty of facilities to support remote working, keeping in touch is now much easier.

Over this period, it's important that you can still feel part of the team. Staying in contact will help you to:

  • follow how your current project is progressing, so that when you return, you can catch up faster
  • share your experience and expertise with any colleague who has been covering for your absence 
  • discuss progress of the project with your team, with the advantage of a little more distance
  • allows you to have a preliminary discussion with your PI or peers about your future role, particularly if this will be changing, or where you may
  • require equipment or facilities to help you work efficiently on your return.

KIT (keeping-in-touch) days

For women on statutory maternity leave, KIT days are a legitimate means of retaining these links without losing the right to payments. They are widely publicised and supported across higher education.

The University includes Keeping In Touch within its maternity leave policy.

You can find more about contact and working during maternity leave from GOV.UK.

If you are an employee it is likely that you are entitled to Statutory Maternity Leave.  This applies whether you are on a fixed-term or permanent contract. New fathers, and (in most cases) adopting parents are also able to claim time off to spend with their child.

You may be entitled to payments from the State, although the rules here are more complex. The University offers additional financial support for expectant and new parents, including partners in a same-sex couple. 

The University's Maternity Leave policy confirms that "any maternity leave will not result in a loss of seniority or incremental progression".

Whatever your situation, it's important to discuss this with your line manager, not least to help him or her plan future resourcing and workloads. You also need to make sure you have given formal notice to HR about dates of leaving and returning. Special arrangements apply for parents needing to take compassionate leave to care for a sick child.

Financial benefits

State benefits start after the birth or adoption of your child. What you may be entitled to will vary according to your personal situation and current government policy. GOV.UK provides both an overview and detail on a range of family-related state benefits, including tax credits and child benefit.

Bringing a child into the world can be a challenging time for any parent. The University offers several schemes to support expectant and new parents, and services to enable you to get back to work or study quickly.

Staff leave for expectant parents

As well as statutory maternity and paternity pay, the University offers an additional maternity and paternity scheme: up to 26 weeks of additional maternity pay, and up to 26 weeks paternity leave. Paternity leave is available for all father figures, and female same-sex or civil partners. If both parents work at the University, there is a scheme for transferring remaining leave to the other partner if the mother returns early.

We also offer adoption leave to support parents expecting to adopt a newly-matched child or have a child through surrogacy. This allows parents up to 52 weeks leave, with 39 weeks statutory pay and 26 weeks additional pay.

Antenatal care

If you have not already done so, it is vital that you now register with a GP (doctor). Most GP practices (/ have a nurse experienced in antenatal care. She or he can also liaise with hospital and other services.

It's possible that you may be medically advised to avoid certain activities during pregnancy, for example heavy lifting or some types of lab work. You may also want to check with Occupational Health. But equally, if there are no contra-indications and you are feeling OK, you may well be able to carry on as normal up to a few weeks before the birth.

In the UK, you have in principle a free choice about your birth location - in hospital, at a specialist unit or at home. However in reality this can be limited by the facilities near to where you live, and any likely risks or requirements. The NHS website sets out the options and the questions to ask.

The charity NCT runs antenatal classes and postnatal groups in Southampton and other locations. It's worth also exploring support from Sport and Wellbeing on Highfield campus.

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