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So currently I am a final year undergraduate from a university in India and I am doing a research internship at a University in the United Kingdom.

The researcher under whom I am working had earlier offered to cover my living expenses, subsistence, accommodation at university's hostel (studio apartment) etc. with a stipend of 1400 british pounds p.c.m. and also pay for my flights.

However, due to the pandemic I am working from home from my country of origin i.e. India.

So, do you think he should pay me when I am working remotely, from the country of my origin or am I on my own.

Should I negotiate with him if he is to pay me at least some stipend or the same amount or he can totally choose to not pay me any stipend because I am working remotely?

Basically, I haven't asked him yet if he would pay me any stipend when I working from here. So should I ask him about this?

Also, I don't think any work or performance is being compromised.

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    @StephanBranczyk actually, I do have a contract saying that he would pay me the stipend. However, I want to know if he would still pay me if I do all the work remotely? You know, because I still have to support myself financially, here or there. Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 5:54
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    @StephanBranczyk yes the letter says that I have to work from UK. But, in case if pandemic doesn't permit international travel then I can obviously do it remotely, since the work is computational in nature. But, it says nothing about whether he is still to pay me the stipend if I work remotely. So is it implied that he has to pay me at least something to support myself even if it is remotely? Or he can totally not pay it? Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 5:59
  • Does your contract have any teaching obligations? A lot of UK universities also ask the students to assist in teaching lower levels for labs or extra classes. Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 8:11
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    You may be better off posting this in Academia SE as you're more likely to find researchers there who may have experienced the same thing. A mod should be able to migrate the question for you. Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 9:36
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    @SJuan76 No. It is just written we would be able to provide 1400 pounds pcm for living expenses. Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 13:20

7 Answers 7

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Call him on the phone or over zoom and ask him.

"Considering this new situation with the pandemic, will I still get the original monthly stipend for this research position?"

If he says "yes". That's great. Just send him an email memorializing retroactively what he said to you over the phone or over zoom. If he says "no", see what he can offer you instead.

Keep in mind that it may be in his interest to make sure you get paid the original amount, so he can keep his budget for next year.

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By the spirit of the agreement, they cover your cost of living and flights. So you won't "make" any money or get rich, but you don't have to take on another job during that period either. At the end of your contract you would not have lost or gained any money, but have been living a normal life with expenses paid. That is the intention of the contract.

Now, due to circumstances none of the parties of the contract could expect or influence, your situation changed. Your expenses are far lower. You did not pay for flights. The cost of living is far lower than expected. Paying you the original sum would probably make you a rich person in comparison to your peers that have a normal local job. That was not the original intention.

A fair solution to this would probably be to calculate what your cost of living is right now (including extras that you need for work, like a really good and stable internet connection) and take that as long as you are not physically in the UK.

That said, nobody expects you to just settle for "fair". You can try to get the best you can. You just have to make sure you don't sound greedy. Do not demand anything. Ask questions. If you have to do something to get this started, asked how to proceed during the pandemic. If they have to do something, ask if they still need anything from you. Go from there. If they don't want to keep to the original contract, and you aren't happy with their changes, ask "why" a lot. At some point the bureaucracy might work in your favor and actually changing your contract to something all sides agree on might be more work for them than just sending you more money than the "fair" amount.

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    Well, I don't know if they legally have to, I personally think they morally have to, because that is the spirit of your contract. I think it would be fair if they paid you less than in your contract due to you paying less as well, but if less amounts to nothing, I would not do any work for them.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 13:50
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    @nvoigt I don't really understand the logic behind this answer. Are you saying that if his living expenses increased drastically, say he had a medical condition that caused him to require expensive medicine every day, he would be justly entitled to a higher stipend? Why doesn't the agreement they made lock in the circumstances at the time they made the agreement and each of them gets to keep any benefits (or is stuck with any harms) from changed circumstances? Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 18:42
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    I don't see it at all either. It's like a contract for work, surely terms are agreed and if an employer tried to pull this logic ("oh you're not living where you would have done so now you don't need this much money") it would be considered intolerable. This betrays the relative status of those on the lowest rung at the coalface of academia. Interns should be afforded the respect of full employees, at least in basic questions of agreed remuneration
    – benxyzzy
    Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 19:07
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    @benxyzzy I think I have to disagree with your reasoning that an internship completely equals contract work or beeing a regular full-time employee. The primary purpose of internships is still one of learning. The remuneration is therefor supposed to allow learning without having to worry about living expenses and not directly a compensation for the work done. This is also the reason why they are exempt from statutory minimum wage regulations in a lot of jurisdictions. I think nvoigt is on the right track here (from a contractual viewpoint & also morally).
    – s1lv3r
    Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 21:34
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    @benxyzzy You're missing that this is not a salary. It's completely normal for contracts to stipulate that you get a bonus while you're working abroad. If you can't work abroad due to some circumstances you won't get that bonus either. The money is earmarked for living accommodations and flights. Or think about it this way: If flights suddenly tripled in price after the contract was signed you'd surely still expect to be paid the full price. Well now the cost of the flights has simply become 0.
    – Voo
    Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 23:21
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The money is expressed as "an stipend"(not a salary) and it is expressly linked to your expenses.

This is not related to your work. It is only meant to pay your living expenses, so you can afford to further your career. In other words, you are working for your career, not for the money.

In such a circunstance, your position is weak. You may ask for all of it, of course, but if may be denied.

If it fails an alternative approach would be documenting your current living expenses and getting the university to, at least, pay for those. After all your remote work is hindering your ability to get a full time job in India, and it is reasonable to ask for at least a compensation for that.

One additional hurdle can be bureaucratic; if you were in the UK you would be under UK tax law and the university would know what to report and whom about the money they pay to it, it would be easier for them that it was send to you and that it was not someone "cooking the books"... An international payment may be more complicated for them to perform (do they need to report to the Indian tax office? How many taxes do they need to pay for it, if any? and other issues).

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Theoretically, yes.

Even if you're not heading over there and staying (which would cancel the costs for relocation, living expenses, subsistence and accommodation), you're still doing the work, for which you are supposed to get paid the agreed upon amount as stipend.

However, practically, the best way to get a definitive answer (in this order) is:

  • Check your contract about the stipend payout for the work done (whether there is any clause about being physically present or not)
  • Talk to your research / internship guide.

In case there's no clear mention about this in the contract, your guide can probably help you getting things cleared up, and if you're interested in continuing the internship only if it's paid - you should say so. Most likely, after cutting down the costs for non-applicable cases (as mentioned above), you'll be getting the stipend amount (or, a fair part thereof), irrespective of your physical location.

Talk to them, and be sure of your priorities.

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    According to OP's comments, the stipend is expressly linked to living expenses, not to the work performed.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 13:25
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    @SJuan76 So just because OP does not live in UK, does that mean they do not have any living expense at all? Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 13:54
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    I do not mean that, but you are expressing that the money is linked to the work. It is not. It is a stipend, not a salary. The OP is working for free because he wants to further his career (he is an undergraudate student). I think that given the circumstances it would be reasonable to ask for money, but that it should be also adapted to the circumstances (check my answer).
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 13:59
  • @SJuan76 Well, I do not draw conclusion because the legality of a salary or stipend can vary, but overall, it's there to cover your expense, true- which you have to cover otherwise by working at other job, if not this one - so in one aspect it's tied to the work (not the nature of work, but the involvement in it). I'd be inclined to think this way. Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 14:03
  • Any alteration in the stipend payment assumes that the OP has admittedly moved with his parents and has not moved to an expensive country or other city like Singapore. It is not per diem.
    – Peace
    Commented Jan 10, 2021 at 14:24
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The researcher under whom I am working had earlier offered to cover my living expenses, subsistence, accommodation at university's hostel (studio apartment) etc. with a stipend of 1400 british pounds p.c.m. and also pay for my flights.

However, due to the pandemic I am working from home from my country of origin i.e. India.

So, do you think he should pay me when I am working remotely, from the country of my origin or am I on my own.

I would assume most of your expenses would not need to be covered when you are working remotely (no flights, no new living arrangements, etc). Thus you wouldn't get the same pay, and perhaps you would get none at all.

Normally, the original arrangement you describe is designed so that it doesn't cost you anything to take the position - not to enrich you. If your costs attributable to this job are zero, then they may decide not to pay you.

Should I negotiate with him if he is to pay me at least some stipend or the same amount or he can totally choose to not pay me any stipend because I am working remotely?

Unless you have a contract that requires something different, it would appear that he can totally choose to not pay you. Of course you don't yet know if you will be paid or not. You would need to decide if you should negotiate or not, based on your goals and your other options.

Basically, I haven't asked him yet if he would pay me any stipend when I working from here. So should I ask him about this?

If you want to know the answer now, then of course you should ask. Decide ahead of time how you will react to any answer.

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    "If your costs are zero" I would assume costs in India are not zero. Food, electricity, rent, that might be cheaper, but it's not free.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 13:52
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I think that this is more of an Academic SE question than a Workplace SE question, and the two perspectives are going to have different answers. From a Workplace perspective, you were offered a position with particular terms. Your employer's motivation for offering those terms are of little relevance. However, for some of these amounts, it matters what the wording was. If a particular amount was set aside as a reimbursement for a plane tickets, then if you don't actually buy the tickets, then you aren't entitled to the money. But if the wording is such that the amount is merely motivated by travel expenses, rather than assigned to travel expenses, then you are.

From an Academic perspective, however, this is likely not viewed as a "job" exactly, and the stipend isn't so much a salary but a scholarship. The professor/university might feel that since the stipend is not paying for services rendered, but rather is to cover expenses, it should be adjusted. One big question is to what degree the individual professor is the one determining the amount of the stipend. A university or a particularly stingy professor might try to reduce the stipend, but I would be somewhat surprised. If the students are normally from the UK, they would still have UK level living expenses, and it would be in rather poor taste to reduce the stipends of just people from countries with lower costs of living.

If you're worried about it, you can ask the professor something like "How will my being remote affect the money budgeted for the position?"

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So should I ask him about this?

No. Nein. нет! לא! 没有!!! 🛑🛑🛑🛑🛑

While not a proper job contract, you had an agreement, hopefully a written agreement, that you were paid 1400£ + flight reimbursement.

Enterpreneurs, as well as researchers, have to accept a business risk. The risk may come in their favour or hammer-fall onto their heads.

You still deserve the 1400£ because you have an existing agreement. But you won't be expecting any flight reimbursement because you won't be flying. You were lucky this time.

Probably your researcher will offer a very small stipend to the next researcher(s) from cheaper countries, who knows.

Of course, it would be extremely unprofessional to ask for flight reimbursements if you don't fly, e.g. I would be extremely upset if you wrote

Hi boss, I should have traveled 2 times a 1500£ flights. Why don't you give these to me in cash?

Additional reference with a counter example: I know a number of Ukrainians and everyone told me the same about IT professionals. Ukraine is a notably cheap country in Eastern Europe (read: where cost of life and consequent salaries are cheaper). IT professionals in that country are treated like rockstars*, because those educated and skilled enough to work for Western European countries remotely get a salary aligned with the standards of UA and not EU. This comes from years before the pandemic, when remote working was not mandatory

*This word might be exaggerated a bit

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    "You still deserve the 1400£ because you have an existing agreement." No they don't. The existing agreement would certainly not allow remote work. Since physical travel is restricted by a higher authority, the existing agreement is void.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Jan 8, 2021 at 7:33

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