Doctoral candidate/doctoral studies

Your  sickness benefit qualifying income (SGI in Swedish) is normally based on your current salary for your employed position. However, there is a minimum and a maximum level. If your income is to generate an SGI, you must normally work for a duration of at least six months. Only income from work forms the basis of SGI.

SGI protection

You typically have an SGI as long as you work and pay tax. When not working you may, in some cases, retain your SGI. This is called SGI protection.

There is both a general post-employment protection of three months (less in some cases) but also the opportunity for further SGI protection under certain circumstances. The most common grounds for entitlement to protected SGI are:

  • Parental leave.
  • Illness, provided that you have/would have been entitled to sickness benefit.
  • That you are actively looking for work and registered with the Employment Service.
  • Studies – as of 1 July 2018, studying on an educational programme that entitles you to a student grant/loan are included, irrespective of whether you actually take student grants/loans, and this may also apply to doctoral studies. Read more about what applies to you as a doctoral candidate below. Studies may also include studying in your own professional field (e.g. postdoc that never entitles you to student grants) however in this situation, SGI protection is limited to one year.

SGI protection in the final stages of thesis work

Sometimes doctoral candidates do not have enough time to complete their theses and its defence before their position as an employed doctoral candidate expires. In some cases the university is able to extend employment but in other cases, doctoral candidates have to choose between interrupting their thesis work or continuing without an employed position. If you choose the latter, it is important to be aware that this may cause problems with SGI protection.

For those whose doctoral candidate position expired on 1 July 2018 or later

On 1 July 2018, a reinforcement of SGI protection for students was introduced into the Social Insurance Code. The change means that almost everyone on a programme that entitles the student to a study grant/loan retains their SGI protection during their study period. The previous situation insisted that it was also necessary to receive a student grant/loan (e.g. from CSN).

SULF interprets the new provision as follows:
This means in practice that doctoral candidates who have been in paid positions but have not completed their doctoral studies before their contracts expire, may continue their postgraduate education with SGI protection because doctoral studies qualify students for study grants/loans. You may not, however, receive a student grant/loan in this situation because such a loan cannot be granted after employment as a doctoral candidate. Previously it has been the case that it has been possible to retain SGI protection for further education in your own professional field during such a period, but only after special consent had been applied for and granted and for a maximum of one year.

Another effect is that those who were previously employed and then become a doctoral candidate on a scholarship can retain SGI protection during this period without a time limit.

However, be sure to avoid any gaps in your SGI protection.

So we recommend that, if you continue your studies without being employed, you register as a jobseeker at the Employment Service not later than the date you submit your dissertation for printing or otherwise end/interrupt your studies. Normally you are entitled to unemployment insurance from this date. As a registered jobseeker, you also have SGI protection.

For those whose doctoral candidate employment expired before 1 July 2018

There is an opportunity, as with doctoral candidates on scholarships, to request protected SGI due to further education in your professional field.

In 2017, a decision of the County Administrative Court in Gothenburg after SULF had appealed in a member’s insurance case, established that a doctoral candidate who continues studies after termination of employment may have the right to retain his/her sickness benefit-based income (SGI) earned from his/her previous employment.

In the case in question, a doctoral candidate did not finish her doctoral studies before termination of employment, however she continued to pursue full-time studies for a number of months until graduation. Immediately after her thesis was submitted for printing, she signed up as a jobseeker and after a further period she took parental leave.

The Swedish Social Insurance Agency then took a decision that she had lost her SGI protection during the period she pursued her studies without being employed. As a result, she only received parental allowance at the basic level.

SULF appealed on her behalf and argued that the time she used to complete the studies should be regarded as “further education in her own professional field”, thus giving her the right to retain her previous SGI.

During the course of the process, the Swedish Social Insurance Agency changed its opinion and agreed to the appeal at the County Administrative Court in Gothenburg. Consequently, the Court’s judgment was not appealed and this precedent should lead to the same decision in similar cases all over the country.

However, it should be noted that SGI protection during education in your professional field is valid for a maximum of one year, unless you are on leave of absence from an employed position in the professional field during the time that you complete your doctoral studies, which is unusual. Please also make sure to avoid any gaps in your SGI protection.

So we recommend that, if you continue your studies without being employed, you register as a jobseeker at the Employment Service not later than the date you submit your dissertation for printing or otherwise end/interrupt your studies.

Please contact SULF if you, as a member, need advice or support in these matters.

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