- You can have up to ten Keep In Touch, or KIT, days during your maternity leave without bringing your statutory maternity pay or leave to an end.
- Both you and your employer need to agree to KIT days as there's no legal right to them.
- They can be taken at any point during maternity leave except for the two weeks immediately after your baby's birth. You can even take KIT days before your baby is born.
- Any part of a day worked on maternity leave (even just an hour) counts as a whole KIT day. A KIT day might include working from home.
- No law exists about how much you should be paid when doing a KIT day. This is something to agree with your employer in advance (see below).
"I didn't formally use KIT days during either of my periods of maternity leave. I did however keep in regular contact with colleagues and was invited to attend any internal CPD events and the like. Keeping a toe in the working world even when on leave will help streamline your return."
KIT days are a tool to smooth your transition from maternity leave to being back at work. Anecdotal reports are that employees who make use of them have an easier return to work - and that's good for the wider team as well as you. There's no prescribed format for KIT days and they can be used to undertake a large range of work-related activities. It's helpful (especially if you have a line manager who doesn't immediately understand the benefits of KIT days) to think through what you intend to use KIT days for, in advance of discussions with your line manager.
"If your employer is ambivalent, insist that KIT days are an essential reorientation tool with benefits for them as much as you."
"I found KIT days worthwhile. They give you a taste of being back at work whilst caring for a baby, help you to assess any adjustments you feel may be necessary and also give you the opportunity to break back in."
Possible uses of / activities to do on KIT days
- Planning meetings
- Budget meeting
- Project scoping meetings
- Annual strategy meeting
- Attending a conference
- Training course
- Reading legal updates
- Reading case files
- Client events
- Team away day
- Team meeting
- Meeting new members of the team
- Recruiting new member of the team
- Conducting direct reports or performance reviews (in conjunction with your cover)
- Agreeing your comeback plan (see below)
"Ask your line manager or another colleague to let you know about upcoming team events that might be a sensible basis for a KIT day. Try to spend time catching up with your line manager during the day on what has been happening with key clients, the firm and your team."
One survey found 71% of women want to have KIT days, yet only 31% in the study had done so. Part of this was due to lack of encouragement by line managers. By considering the benefits of KIT days from your line manager's perspective and thinking through any objections she or he might have, you'll be able to make a good case for making use of them. "This was my manager's first experience of KIT days and so we learnt together, largely bypassing the minimal HR facility that my employer had at that time."
"Employers should encourage Keep In Touch days. It is valuable to keep employees on maternity leave or shared parental leave engaged in the business. This is a great way to keep up with what is happening at work for both the employer and the employee."
Maternity pay and KIT day arrangements may be set out in your contract and, if not, you and your employer need to work this out in advance. You must be paid at least the minimum wage on a KIT day. Many employers top up employees' maternity pay on a KIT day to the equivalent of a regular day's pay, although they don't have to. If you need to negotiate what you'll be paid, think about travel and childcare costs and use that to make the case for a pay top-up. Whatever you agree, ask for it in writing.
It's a good idea to discuss how far in advance you would both would like to set the KIT dates and agree any flexibility for changing them. Things may happen in the organisation or in your personal life which may mean it's better for one or both of you to revise planned dates. For example, whilst one person might prefer to come in once a week in the run up to their return, another person might prefer an ad hoc agreement, coming in for specific events as and when they happen. Childcare can be a stumbling block being able to come into work at short notice, so setting expectations about how much warning you'll need for changes is useful to you both.
"I used two, from memory. One to help out the department and cover when the department was short-staffed, which was a bit of a fraught day as a particularly difficult research task had been saved up for me. I felt I had put in more than a full shift and it wasn't easy to work in such a concentrated way when I had been out of the office for so long, nor even to get to grips with the computer after several months. The second was equally traumatic, when again I had to cover a particularly difficult day-long committee on account of the department being short-staffed. There were papers to read beforehand, minutes to draft afterwards and again I felt that, whilst I was paid, the employer had really got their pound of flesh. On reflection, I regretted agreeing to either. Where it could have worked well I think would have been to attend team meetings etc and keep abreast in a general sense of developments within the wider workplace as well as within the team."
 Survey conducted by The Talent Keeper Specialists in 2011 and published in 'Maternity Comeback Report - Strategies for Success' available of www.talentkeepers.co.uk