Do you have a policy for keeping in touch during family leave?

Returning to work from family leave can be a significant adjustment for some employees. As well as the practical considerations of childcare and family logistics, there may have been significant changes in the workplace, such as new colleagues, new technology or new products and services. If used properly, keeping-in-touch (KIT) days can help an employee to feel included and can support their transition back to work.

‘Employees and employers can agree that an employee participates in up to ten KIT days during their family leave,’ explains Elizabeth Bartle, a Partner in the employment team with Ingram Winter Green in London ‘However, you should not be tempted to use KIT days to force an employee to work during their family leave, as these arrangements are entirely voluntary.’

Elizabeth explains what KIT days are, and looks at their benefits, good practice, how not to use them, and pay arrangements.

Family leave and KIT days

KIT days are available to employees on adoption leave and maternity leave, after the period of compulsory maternity leave. Up to ten KIT days can take place without this stopping statutory maternity, or adoption leave pay, or bringing leave to an end.

Employees on shared parental leave are entitled to 20 days ‘shared parental leave in touch’ (SPLIT) days. For employees on maternity leave or the primary adopter on adoption leave, SPLIT days are in addition to 10 KIT days. The same considerations apply to SPLIT days as KIT days.

There is no provision for KIT days during other types of statutory family-friendly leave, namely paternity leave or unpaid ordinary parental leave. In this article, family leave refers to statutory maternity, adoption, and shared parental leave.

The benefits of KIT days

KIT days are often used so that an employee can attend occasional departmental team strategy meetings, an away day, or training sessions. There are many benefits to this as the employee is kept in the loop, skills and knowledge are kept up to date and they may enjoy the opportunity to see colleagues. All of this should help make their return to work easier.

Agreeing KIT days

While the employer cannot insist on the employee working during family leave, neither can the employee insist on working. It is therefore good practice to discuss if the employee would be interested in KIT days before they go on leave and, if so, the type of events or work they are interested in.

It should be made clear that KIT days are optional and they can change their mind even if they agreed to participate before going on leave.

If something crops up after the employee has gone on leave, such as training on an important technology update, and they said that they do not want to be contacted about KIT days, then we recommend getting in touch with our solicitors first to discuss how to approach this.

How to organise KIT days

Employers should think about the practical arrangements for the employee when they come in for a KIT day, for instance using their usual desk and equipment and having access to IT.

KIT days can be used for remote working, and the employer needs to ensure the employee is set up to work remotely.

KIT days can be organised in blocks or separately. KIT days are most useful close to the date when the employee will return to help with the transition, but they can be taken at any time during the leave after the period of compulsory maternity leave.

Is the employee required to carry out work on a KIT day?
While KIT days are often used for training or team away days, they can be used for doing actual work as well. The employer and employee are free to agree this, for example if the employee has specific knowledge on a project that needs their input.
Should the employee be paid for a KIT day?

There are no rules on pay for KIT days in the family leave regulations, although employers must still pay the national minimum wage.
It is good practice to discuss pay for KIT days before the employee goes on leave. We recommend including this in your family leave policy. Some employers offer full pay or time off in lieu when the employee comes back to work. Otherwise, there is little financial incentive for the employee who may incur travel and childcare costs.

We can advise you on the rules relating to offsetting statutory family leave pay against pay for KIT days.
How not to use KIT days

Employees should not feel pressurised into working or attending events during family leave, and they are protected from less favourable treatment if they do not agree to participate in KIT days. Dismissing an employee for refusing to take a KIT day would be an unfair dismissal.

KIT days cannot be split up. Even one hour working or training will count as a whole KIT day.

Other contact with employees on family leave

Employers can have reasonable contact with an employee on family leave to discuss their return to work. This is distinct from KIT days.

To avoid a discrimination claim arising from being excluded before they go on leave the employee should be asked if they want to receive workplace news and invitations to work social events.

Employees on family leave should also be informed about promotion opportunities which arise.

How we can help

Our experienced employment lawyers can help you make the most of the flexible arrangements for KIT and SPLIT days and ensure that your policies on family leave enable you to do so. For further information, please contact Elizabeth Bartle in the employment team on 020 7845 7400 or email   Ingram Winter Green has offices in London.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.