Keeping in touch…
When it comes to maternity / adoption / shared parental leave it can be hard to know how you’re going to feel about keeping in touch with your employer. What’s important to know though, is that you have options and choices to make. Keep In Touch (KIT) days are a big topic of conversation and have the potential to help you feel a little more in the loop in the world of work. So where shall we start? Let me give you a few facts:
- Employers are not legally obliged to offer KIT days. Lots do though, and you can take up to 10 before your maternity or adoption pay or leave is stopped. If you have more than one job, the days apply to each job separately.
- If you’re taking shared parental leave, these days are then called Shared Parental Leave In Touch (SPLIT) days and there are up to 20 available.
- Working part of a day classes as a full day of pay. Individual companies will have their own policies on pay rates though, so ask! Employment regulations don’t stipulate the rate but lots of employers pay usual salary rate.
I’m not going to go too deep into the legislation behind them but you can find out more from Maternity Action, the GOV.UK website and ACAS. What I do want to focus on though are some of the questions you might want to be asking and how to approach the set-up of KIT/SPLIT days so you spend less time worrying about logistics and more time thinking about yourself!
Before you finish for your leave:
- It might feel a bit early BUT I’d recommend getting hold of a copy of your specific company KIT/SPLIT day policy. The last thing you want while you’re busy figuring out parenthood is to track down a copy of something that should take a matter of minutes the next time you’re in work.
- In the policy there should be information on the pay related to taking a KIT/SPLIT day, but if there isn’t drop an email to your line manager and HR business partner to find out – then forward that email on to your personal email address. That might sound like common sense but I’ve probably spoken to near 100 women who say they didn’t think to send things on and they wish they had.
Planning the day:
- KIT/SPLIT days should work for everybody – as in the person on parental leave and the employer, not that everybody should take them…make sense?? The things you should put some thought into before approaching your line manager might include:
- Timing – do you need to factor in childcare arrangements that might mean you waiting for a friend or family to arrive, a drop off or nursery opening? You don’t have to follow the pattern you did pre-bambino or indeed what you’ll actually be working when you return but max out the gift of testing a new routine. Make no assumptions about the expectations others will have on you!
- What can you actually do? You may be operating within the limits of technology, so if you need log on access or emails switching on you can ask your line manager to support with that – or in the absence of a line manager (I know it happens) a peer, HR business partner, the bloke on reception, the CEO – whoever picks up a phone until you can comfortably know the tech is covered! Asking for clarity on what you’ll actually be doing on your KIT/SPLIT day as well as offering up suggestions is
- Is there a team meeting or business update type event that you can go to? It’s a great way to begin getting updates and more informally say hello to people again.
- Get to grips with flex. Are you planning on putting in a flexible working application? You’ve got a golden opportunity on a KIT day to figure out the policy and process, as well as start some of the discussions. There’s very often a form to fill in that includes a business case (or similar) and it’s the part that lots of people tell me they struggle to articulate. They know they can make their requested pattern work but putting that into black and white can be tricky, but while you’re in the office (or equivalent) you can always ask for some support in filling it in. Informal chats with your line manager are also a great way to start and get their thoughts.
I asked on Insta stories if anybody had any thoughts about what you would go back and tell yourself or share as ‘best practice’ when it comes to KIT days and here’s what came out. Big thanks to Migle, Steph, Claire, Brooke and Ali for your thoughts…
- Get passwords unlocked and technology ready
- It doesn’t have to be a full day
- Catch ups and shadowing others is a great way to spend the day. You might not be classically ‘working’ but it’s about the engagement these meetings can drive.
- Fit them around specific meetings and team events
- Let people know you’re going in – don’t assume the news that you’re going in will be passed on!
- Don’t feel pressured to use them all – do what is right for you (and possibly your bank balance)
- Use them for training or return to work sessions if your company runs them (and if they don’t get in touch with Power of the Parent!!)
- Incorporate a team lunch – it’s not all about 1:1s and formal meetings, there’s a lot to be said for taking the edge with a sandwich with work friends.
- Confirm via email – you can refer back to dates and times. It’s hard to answer the phone sometimes when you’re juggling parenting, and if you’ve not got a pen to hand to write down what you’ve agreed you don’t want to cause yourself any unnecessary stress!
- Manage your expectations – you’re likely to get asked A LOT how the baby (or babies) is and not a dramatic amount of work done
So if a KIT or SPLIT day is on the horizon for you I hope this has been helpful – and if you would add any tips I’d always love to hear them!