Posted on 30.1.20
It’s a mistake many employers can fall foul of – miscommunication with employees on maternity leave. The worst-case scenario can result in legal proceedings and a stressful situation for all those involved, even affecting morale of other employees.
Here we’ve put together some guidance on legal requirements and considerations for managing communications with employees during maternity leave.
Any woman choosing to take maternity leave should not be treated less favourably than others (under The Equality Act 2010), which can include a number of situations such as including them in updates and changes to their role, advising them of promotion opportunities, discussions about restructures and potential redundancies. The most common error made by employers is lack of communication – an unfortunate case of out of sight, out of mind.
Keeping in Touch Days (KIT Days)
Every employee has the right to take 52 weeks’ maternity leave, the first 26 weeks being ordinary maternity leave, and then the latter 26 weeks, additional maternity leave.
During this time, employees can work up to 10 days, called “Keeping in Touch” or “KIT” Days without bringing their maternity leave and pay to an end. KIT Days are not compulsory, however, they can be extremely useful for both the individual and the employer. They can be used for the employee to attend training courses, events, team meetings and company presentations.
KIT Days are most commonly used in the period leading up to the employee’s return to work. It’s an opportunity for employees to ease themselves back in, get their children settled into nursery and so that they are up-to-date and feel confident re-entering the workplace.
When is contact appropriate?
However, on top of KIT Days, throughout an employee’s maternity leave, employers should make every effort and plan to maintain reasonable contact so that the employee is not kept in the dark and is informed of developments at work. Some examples include:
- Promotion opportunities
- Changes which effect their team or their position
- Training Courses
- Social Events
- Annual Appraisals
- Staff changes/general updates
An easy way to avoid any instances of breaching the Equality Act 2010 and having a grievance complaint raised is to plan ahead. Before your employee takes maternity leave, discuss with them how much and what type of contact is preferred and by what method.
Another top tip is that the agreed communication methods and levels then need to be circulated to relevant teams and individuals who may be involved in such practices (Marketing, Events, Internal Communications, HR, Line Managers and any other relevant employees) to prevent any instances of miscommunication.
All employees wish to feel valued and receive open and clear communication from their employers, so it’s even more critical to maintain this with employees during maternity leave – so even though they are not in work, they still feel part of the team and are not out of sight, out of mind.