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Director, Kate Matthews, considers the finer points of keeping in touch with work while on parental leave.

“Keep in touch” is an age old phrase that we have probably all used at some point when parting company. This is no different during employment when an employee takes an extended period of parental leave, be it for maternity, shared parental or adoption.

Whilst it’s perfectly reasonable that some new parents may not want any communication at all for the duration of their leave, often a lack of contact can leave employees’ feeling cut off from work, which in turn can lead to feelings of apprehension around the time of their return.

KIT BlogKIT and SPLIT Days

Fortunately there is an option for employees to work for up to 10 “keeping-in-touch” days during maternity or adoption leave, or up to 20 "shared-parental-leave-in-touch" (SPLIT) days during shared parental leave, without bringing the leave to an end or losing statutory pay. Employers should note that the organisation has no right to require employees to carry out any work and employees have no right to undertake any work during their leave; it is by mutual agreement.

Although a full day does not need to be worked, any work carried out on any day will count as a whole day - even if the employee only works for one hour in a day, they will have used up one of their keeping-in-touch days. Keeping-in-touch days do not have to be consecutive, and days of work do not extend the employee's leave period.

Ask the question

At EST we think it’s important to have a conversation with the employee before they go on leave to make them aware of arrangements and to ask the question: “how do you want us to keep in touch”. It’s not just about working during leave, wider communication should also be considered. Does the employee want to remain on circulation lists to update them on developments at work and social events during their absence?

And then we come to the tricky question of bringing children into the workplace. It’s fair to say that babies and young children are nothing if not unpredictable, but is it ever appropriate for a parent to attend work with baby in tow? There’s no right or wrong answer to this one; it very much depends on the circumstances. This would be perfectly reasonable when attending a meeting to discuss return to work plans and to discuss any special arrangements to be made or training to be given in preparation for the employee’s return to work. It’s also usual to permit an employee to call in to work during leave to say hello and introduce their new addition(s).

Boss baby

I recently attended a board meeting at Gofal Enterprises Ltd, the trading arm of mental health charity, Gofal, where one of my fellow non-executive directors, Kate Methuen-Ley (currently on shared parental leave), brought her son. Speaking to her afterwards, Kate, who is a director at Flying Tiger Copenhagen (Tiger Cardiff Ltd.), told me that she has also taken him to work with her for catch-ups with her business partner and to attend a recent meeting with their auditors. She said that it helps her to feel that she doesn’t have to be ‘just a mum’ or ‘just a director’. With so much time being spent in work, Kate says it’s a relief to be able to be flexible.

This strikes a cord with my own experience of being a new mum. My children frequently attended internal meetings with me as babies and more recently they sat through a team update meeting, where they behaved impeccably (although they told me afterwards that next time they would stay in my office on their phones as it was “boring”).

When we had some updated team photographs done recently, we were keen that Rhian, who is currently on maternity leave from EST, had the opportunity to be included (and of course we took the opportunity to take a shot with her new-born while she was in). This was in no way disruptive and meant that Rhian didn’t feel cut out of the team just because she is currently away from work.

It’s not always appropriate, of course, but in limited circumstances it doesn’t have to be an impossibility. EST works with businesses to formulate their own parental policies, incorporating keeping in touch so that arrangements are clear from the outset. We love to chat so call us if you’d like to discuss this, or any aspect of HR!