A Guide to Keeping in Touch Days
Keeping in touch days allow employers to maintain contact with employees while they are on maternity or shared parental leave, and provide a degree of continuity with clients and on projects. They can also benefit employees, providing an opportunity to stay acquainted with what is going on at work, and easing their transition back to their role.
Keeping in touch days (or KIT days) were introduced in The Maternity and Parental Leave etc. and the Paternity and Adoption Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2006 to encourage effective communication between employee and employer during maternity leave, to support the employee in keeping their skills up to date, and to ease their return to work.
However, if keeping in touch days are not properly implemented, there is a risk to the employee of loss of maternity or parental pay. Furthermore, there are important considerations for employers relating to KIT remuneration, and specifically whether it should offset statutory payments.
What are keeping in touch days?
‘Keeping in touch’ (KIT) or ‘shared parental leave in touch’ (SPLIT) days allow employees who are on maternity or parental leave to work during their leave without losing their maternity or parental benefits. KIT and SPLIT days are optional – an employer is not obliged to offer KIT/SPLIT days to employees, and employees are not obliged to return to work. Employees who have been on maternity leave can work up to 10 days during their leave, whilst up to 20 SPLIT days can be taken. SPLIT days are in addition to the 10 KIT days available to employees on maternity leave. If an employee has more than one job, their KIT/SPLIT days apply to each job separately.
When can keeping in touch days be taken?
KIT days can be taken at any time during maternity or parental leave (before or after the baby is born), except for during compulsory maternity leave, which is typically the two weeks immediately following the baby’s birth (four weeks for factory workers). It is unlawful for an employer to allow a woman to work during her compulsory maternity leave period.
KIT and SPLIT days do not need to be taken consecutively but can be worked at any time during maternity or parental leave (except during the compulsory leave period).
What kind of work can be done on a keeping in touch day?
The employee can be asked to complete any tasks that would constitute part of their normal role on a KIT day, including attending meetings or conferences, speaking with clients, working on projects, or attending training.
However, taking the new baby into work to show colleagues, or generally communicating with team members would not constitute use of keeping in touch days. Similarly, there is an expectation that an employer will contact the employee at reasonably regular intervals to discuss their return to work and generally to stay in touch. This level of contact would not be considered in the KIT allowance.
Regardless of the nature of the tasks completed by the employee during KIT/SPLIT days, the employee is entitled to return to the role they were doing immediately before the start of their maternity or parental leave. The allocation of tasks for KIT/SPLIT days should not affect the job to which the employee returns.
While an employer is not legally obliged to offer KIT days, if they require the employee to come into work for a meeting, training, or any other work-related activity, the employee is entitled to a KIT day according to their statutory rights.
Can a company insist that an employee attends keeping in touch days?
Keeping in touch days are completely optional; the employer does not have to offer them, and the employee is not obliged to work them. Furthermore, an employer should not discriminate against the employee should they refuse to work KIT days. An employee is still subject to their standard contract of employment and statute and cannot be subjected to unfair treatment.
Does an employee receive their full contractual pay on keeping in touch days?
The rate of pay which applies on a KIT day is not defined and must be negotiated between employee and employer. In many cases it may be set out in the contract of employment, but where this is not the case, the employer can offer to pay the employee any amount that they see fit (as long as it complies with national minimum wage obligations and meets the company’s legal responsibility to ensure that women and men receive equal pay for work of equal value).
However, given that the employee is not obliged to work keeping in touch days, it is in the employer’s interest to offer a rate that is both reasonable and acceptable, and in most cases, this would equate to the employee’s contractual rate. An employee should be paid for the hours worked in the company’s normal pay run; it would not be acceptable to withhold payment until they return to work upon the expiry of their leave.
An employer can also offset the pay received for KIT days against an employee’s statutory maternity/adoption/shared parental pay, should they choose to do so. However, once again, if the employer would like the employee to work keeping in touch days, it is in their interest to incentivise the return to work, and offsetting pay may prove dissuasive.
During the period in which KIT days are worked, the employee must continue to receive their weekly statutory maternity, adoption or parental pay, with remuneration for KIT/SPLIT days being made in addition to statutory payments (unless KIT/SPLIT day payments are being offset).
What happens if an employee works more than 10 keeping in touch days?
Once the statutory limit of 10 keeping in touch days has been reached, any further days worked will result in the employee losing the statutory maternity/adoptive/shared parental pay pertaining to the week in which they worked. If the employee continues to work additional days, maternity leave will be considered to have ended.
How do keeping in touch days affect an internal payroll department or external payroll service?
The rules surrounding KIT days can be complex, particularly where the remuneration for hours worked is offset against statutory maternity/adoption/shared parental pay. In many smaller businesses it is a payroll process which is not regularly enacted, leaving many internal payroll departments unsure of how to manage the payroll implications of keeping in touch days.
External payroll services can be particularly useful when managing the payroll demands of KIT days. External payroll specialists are well-versed in current payroll legislation and the payroll services that these experts offer can be invaluable for businesses where navigating the statutory demands of maternity and parental legislation is unfamiliar and alien. With employees potentially losing their statutory entitlement should KIT days not be administered correctly, a business owner needs to have complete confidence that their payroll is being correctly managed according to current legislation, and so in these circumstances external payroll services are highly valuable.
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