What to do when returning from maternity leave

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Baby at work

Returning from maternity leave can leave you with lots to arrange.

There is a lot to organise when you’re preparing to return to work after maternity leave, from childcare arrangements, to returning to work, and deciding whether you’d like to change your working pattern by making a flexible working request.

While you’re on maternity leave, you’re in a totally different frame of mind, indeed a different world, to being at work. It can be hard to change gear, but there comes a point when it’s necessary to start thinking about your ideal working and childcare arrangements. Here are some things you may want to consider.

What are KIT days at work?

KIT days are “Keeping in Touch” days.  You can work up to 10 KIT days during maternity leave without losing your entitlement to Statutory Maternity Pay or ending your maternity leave.  Normally if you return to work, your maternity leave would automatically end. You can use KIT days for training, keeping up to date with what’s gone on at work during your maternity leave, internal staff meetings, or as a way to have a gradual return to work.

Are KIT days voluntary?

Employers don’t have to offer KIT days, and if you’re asked to work a KIT day you can refuse.  If you do refuse, you can’t be penalised or disciplined.  Equally, if you want to do a KIT day and your employer refuses, you can’t require them to agree, and wouldn’t have a grievance.

Do you get paid for KIT days?

It will depend on your contract and/or your employer’s maternity policy though it’s good practice for employers to pay full pay for a KIT day, even if it’s only part of a day that you’re actually working. They can “top up” Statutory Maternity Pay to full pay.

Should you make a flexible working request?

Any employee with more than 26 weeks’ employment can currently make a flexible working request.  This is expected to become a “day one” right at some point but as at August 2023, we’re still waiting for confirmation – more information here.

Many women returning from maternity leave make flexible working requests in order to help manage the juggle between working and home life.  What you need in terms of your working pattern will depend on what childcare you’re arranging.  As such, it can be difficult to formulate a flexible working request until you know things like what childcare cover you’re going to have, when and where it’s located, as well as what days your partner can do drop-offs and pick-ups if you’re sharing the load.

That doesn’t mean it’s not worth communicating with your employer early on to see what they could potentially agree to, and how much notice they’d ideally like. Much around flexible working depends on your employer’s culture, policies and communications.

If your employer isn’t prepared to even consider a change to your working pattern, as well as contacting us for advice, you may want to look to change job. If this is the case, at least you’ll have found out with more time before you were expecting to return to work. We can help you with a flexible working request, grievance, and further action against your employer to enforce your rights. If all works out and you return on a workable arrangement, then great, but otherwise, you’ve at least started looking for a new job.

Sorry this reads rather negatively – unfortunately, in our experience, many women experience discrimination while on maternity leave, so it’s best to be prepared with a “plan B” if you feel that your employer is treating you unfairly.

Returning from maternity leave

Your return might include some flexible/work from home…

Can you return early from maternity leave?

Yes.  The presumption is that you’ll be taking the full 52-week entitlement to maternity leave unless you tell your employer differently.

If you want to return earlier, you must give 8 weeks’ notice of the date on which you want to return.  Your employer can ask you to wait for 8 weeks if you try to give less notice.

The same 8-week notice requirement applies if you had originally said you would return after less than 52 weeks’ maternity leave, and you want to change the date to return earlier or later.

Can you go back to the same job after maternity leave?

Usually, yes.  But if you’ve taken more than 26 weeks’ maternity leave (not including any annual leave you took before starting on maternity leave), you’re entitled to return to your old job unless that’s “not reasonably practicable”.

This means that if your old job is redundant, then your employer can say it’s not available for you to return to.

Unfortunately, many women on maternity leave find that they have been miraculously selected for redundancy.  We help an ever growing number of women who have been discriminated against because of their pregnancy or maternity leave.

If you are selected for redundancy, or dismissed, or treated unfairly because of your pregnancy or because you plan to take, or are on, or took maternity leave, then you will have a claim against your employer.  You don’t need any minimum period of employment to bring discrimination claims.

If this happens to you, just get in touch and we’ll help you navigate through the situation to get you where you want to be.

Employment Solicitor

If you need more help with the subjects covered here, then do reach out to our expert employment law solicitors.  You can speak to our employment solicitors online via email employment@qlaw.co.uk or call us on 03300 020 863.

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