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Lost opportunities: how to make the most of KIT days

Written by Eloise Spearman | Client Services Manager


Keeping in Touch (KIT) days are often mentioned in our 1:1 parental transition coaching with expectant and returning mums, as well as in our research where we ask mums to tell us candidly about their experiences returning to work. These mums tell us that there is a lack of consistency in the use and effectiveness of KIT days, and opportunities to engage and support returners are being lost.


Here, we take a look at returners’ experiences and how well thought-out and properly organised KIT days are vital to a successful and positive return to work.


What are KIT days?

Employees can work up to 10 days during their maternity or adoption leave, without their leave automatically ending. KIT days are optional - both the employee and employer need to agree to them – and the employee’s right to maternity or adoption leave and pay is not affected by taking keeping in touch days.


Employees can work up to 20 days during their Shared Parental Leave. These are called ‘shared parental leave in touch’ (or SPLIT) days. These days are in addition to the 10 ‘keeping in touch’ (or KIT) days already available to employees on maternity or adoption leave.


It still counts as a full keeping in touch day even if the employee only works part of it, for example a half day.


What can KIT days be used for?

A KIT day can include any work that would normally be done as part of an employee’s contract of employment, including training, conferences and meetings.


KIT days can be used to:

  • keep up to date with what has been happening in the workplace

  • attend a training course or staff meeting

  • complete a project

  • help an employee settle back into work gradually at the end of their maternity, adoption or shared parental leave.


Why are they important?

Properly planned and utilised KIT days allow returners to stay ‘in the loop’ during their leave and ease the transition back into the workplace after parental leave.


They can also help ensure that returners aren’t missing out on training and development opportunities due to parental leave. One mum comments:


“I think more needs to be done regarding KIT and ensuring staff on maternity leave have greater access to staff development, are kept in the loop and are supported with career aspirations.”

Lived experiences - and how to make KIT days work


Clarity

Some of the mums we speak to told us that their line managers don’t always understand what KIT days should be used for, with employers sometimes declining a KIT day due to lack of available work. This can be demoralising and certainly doesn’t set new parents up for a positive and productive return to work.


“My maternity leave return date was a bit of a mess owing to miscommunications about how to arrange shared parental leave, bank holidays, and payment for KIT days. It was stressful to organise this while on leave.”

“I wasn't invited for any KIT days. My role changed upon my return and I wasn't involved in any discussions regarding this. Can be difficult enough returning to work, but this was exaggerated by having to learn a new role.”

Therefore, it’s important to discuss and agree before maternity leave:

  • if the expectant mum wants to work KIT days

  • how many days they want

  • what type of work they'll do on the days

  • how much they'll be paid for the work

  • where they’ll work – eg, in their normal place of work or working from home.


Communication

Some mums report having little or no contact from their employer, which leaves them feeling ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Coupled with a lack of clarity regarding their role when they return from leave, this lack of planning and communication leads to feelings of disengagement and overwhelm:


“Because my KIT days were never discussed ahead of time, I would suddenly get emails needing immediate response and then afterward a month of silence.”

On the other hand, some mums told us they preferred ‘radio silence’ during leave:


“I was very grateful that my company respected my wishes for 'radio silence' unless I reached out during maternity leave so that I could spend the nine months focusing on and embracing being a mother, rather than thinking about work as I'd have found it hard to switch off if I'd stayed in regular communication with work.”

Again, it’s vital that line managers discuss and agree the desired level of contact before parental leave starts, and then stick to the agreed plan.


Consistency

We often hear that there is a real lack of consistent from line managers and across organisations when it comes to return to work support, including KIT days. One mum told us:


“My two colleagues and I all had quite differing experiences when we returned from maternity leave. A lot of us found that even though you've got really supportive managers - a lot of our managers have children themselves - it's been a bit a bit difficult.


For instance, some of us were able to do our keeping in touch days remotely, which meant we were able to breastfeed and have someone at home to look after the baby, whereas others were told that remote KIT days weren’t possible. There doesn't seem to be a standard approach around the organization.”


Making small changes to accommodate individual circumstances can make a huge difference to returners’ participation, and this support should be available across the organization – not at a manager’s discretion.


Food for thought?

If you’d like to ensure your returners have a positive and productive return to work, we can help! Our interventions - including Parental Allyship Workshops for line managers, parental transition coaching for returning parents, and Parental Awareness training to foster a culture of inclusion across your organisation – help our clients retain and engage their returners, protecting their talent pipeline while keeping productivity high.


Get in touch if you’d like to book a call.

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