What happens if you or your partner becomes pregnant during your PhD?
The first thing to do would be to speak to the HR department at the university, research your entitlements and let your supervisor know. You would also want to think about what you wanted to do – do you want to take a period of leave from your research? Or do you want to carry on with your research as soon as you can after giving birth? If your project gives you the freedom to plan your own time, you may well be able to manage a child and your PhD. There are plenty of people on the Internet sharing their advice and experiences (good, bad, helpful and unhelpful).
In the UK you are entitled to take up to 12 months maternity leave. If you are planning to take leave, you would need to apply to your university to suspend your studies. Suspending studies usually means you would not need to pay any fees and if you do receive any bursary this would be put on hold for the duration of the suspended study. Regarding rights to statutory maternity pay whilst you are a PhD student, there is no clear answer. The first place to check would be with the funding body that supports you. Some research councils and funding bodies choose to treat PhD students in the same way they would with staff regarding maternity leave and pay. PhD students, however, are not employees and unfortunately have no rights to be treated as an employee. It really depends on your funding body. Secondly the university you are affiliated with may have a standard policy on rights for PhD students and fund your maternity pay. My school does not fund maternity pay, it only offers a suspension in fee payments and suspension in bursary payments. According to the government website receiving a bursary does not qualify you to receive a maternity allowance as a bursary is not treated as earnings.
I also know that some people do struggle from pressure from their funders to complete their research and as a resuld do not take maternity leave and they have found the process difficult. Please share any other advice, feedback or experiences you have had in the comments.