Annabel: As entitlement to maternity leave has increased, women increasingly run the risk of losing touch with their workplace during their one year absence. One attempt to remedy this was Keeping in Touch days (KITs), introduced in 2007. We started to write an article about what they were and how they could be used, but we walked straight into a typical Government induced muddle.
Laura: It makes good sense to keep in touch with a new mother. Fostering good communication and helping to facilitate an easy return to work (both emotionally and financially) will mean that when she does come back to work she is happy and able to do a good job. But in reality using KITs can cause stress, humiliation and offence.
Annabel: A woman can ‘work’ up to 10 days within her maternity leave period (except in the protected two weeks after birth) without triggering the end of her maternity leave. These are KITs. Men on additional paternity leave will also have KITs. However, any hour’s work done on any day is a whole KIT ‘day’. So, if you do one hour’s work on each of ten days you have used all your allowance, and working on another day could trigger an end to your statutory maternity pay.
Laura: I always understood that doing any work on a KIT meant you had to be paid for the whole day – how come we two professionals have completely different ideas about this? No wonder women and their employers get confused!
Annabel: A day’s KIT is not the same as a day’s work, so there is no rule that says if a woman does an hour’s work she is entitled to be paid for the whole day. I can see how people get in a muddle, but using up your allowance, and how many hours you are paid for are two entirely different things.
Laura: The EHRC website says that the rate of pay and duties are something for agreement between the employer and the employee.
Annabel: I have read and re-read the statute and regulations and I don’t see that. The Employment Rights Act 1996 says a woman is not entitled to be paid her normal pay when she is absent on maternity leave, but when you are having a KIT day you are not absent! Even with agreement, I am not convinced that this would get employers out of National Minimum Wage or discrimination problems if the reason for the lower rate is related to pregnancy.
Laura: So you can the employer ask the employee to do any duties?
Annabel: Women are not obliged to agree to any KIT days but KIT days are set up so they can do their normal contractual work, or training, or for communication – so making you clean the toilets if you don’t normally do it, is not something you’d expect to be asked to do on a KIT day.
Laura: In my experience KIT days can be badly used. One example I have is of a senior employee who was asked to come back in for a team meeting, which lasted a couple of hours, and then her manager insisted that she had to do a full day’s work for her pay and had her stuffing envelopes to fill in the time – totally de-motivating.
Laura and Annabel: This can only get worse while the Government tinkers with regulations on how to share maternity leave between parents. Would it be too much to ask for someone to clear up this mess while they are doing it? Employers shouldn’t have to guess which law trumps another!
If you would like a discounted one hour one to one with Laura (Feb/Mar 2011) to help make your maternity plan you can save £175 on an introductory one to one at Laura’s clinic in London at the Monument. Mention FMWF or Balancing the Bump. Call 020 7283 8908 to book an appointment.
If you are at risk of redundancy and about to start maternity leave (or on it), click here to join us for this FREE KoffeeKlatch on 24 February 2011 @ 11am GMT to talk about the additional rights you have and how to make them work for you
Do you have a query that you’d like Laura or Annabel to answer? Follow this link and post your question for them – http://balancingthebump.com/contact/
Posted by on 11/07/2011 09:55:41
Jackie Groundsell is known as the queen of women's business networking lunches - the Connector. She supports thousands of small business owners through her events and lunch-time meetings