Ok so I get it, people taking maternity, paternity or adoption leave can be very tricky for a business. Company directors need to ensure the business continues to function well without certain staff members, they need to limit the impact on other employees and of course they need to recruit for their covers. It’s not ideal, I appreciate that and I have personally seen it from both sides. However what I don’t understand is why people who have every intention of returning to work (and are trying to sort out this return) are being messed around when trying to arrange their Keep In touch (KIT) days.
If you are not familiar with what a KIT day is, then here is a quick explanation; quite simply it is a day to keep in touch with work. Employees can work up to 10 KIT days during their maternity, adoption or additional paternity leave. These days are optional and can be worked at any time during ordinary or additional maternity leave, adoption leave or shared parental leave. You can work either before or after the birth, but you cannot work during the two weeks of compulsory maternity leave immediately after the birth. Unfortunately the regulations do not state what an employee should be paid for working a KIT day, but employers are expected to pay your normal rate of pay. All seems simple enough right..?
Wrong… Over the past few months, I have had countless discussions with friends who are new parents, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that almost three quarters of them have had a very difficult time when trying to arrange their KIT days.
For example, one lady I know who works in a nursery (where you would think they would be really on top of understanding what it’s all about being a new parent) has been really struggling with arranging her KIT days. She told them early on that she could only secure childcare on specific days of the week, yet her boss kept asking her to come in on days she already said she couldn’t do. This not only makes her feel anxious about letting them down, but she feels like she is saying ‘no’ to things before she has even returned. Not only that, but she is actually having to chase them to get these days booked in. They keep saying things like ‘oh yeah, we may need you this week, we may not, we’ll let you know’…. Now come on, pay attention guys.. she is a new mum and is trying to put her baby into childcare for the first time.. Do you really think she can just sort that out with only a few days to spare?
I have another friend who has been constantly chasing her work to discuss her return to work and they are just not responding to her emails. Again, why do they have to make it so hard for her, she is already dreading going back and leaving baby, why make it harder by their lack of dialogue with her. Like all mums returning to work, she fears she may struggle to get back into the swing of things or that she may not be as good at her job as she used to be. By them not responding to her, she feels that they don’t value her or want her back. A simple email response would really reassure her that they do want her back.
Another friend arranged childcare for her KIT day the other day and was all revved up to go in (game face on, new outfit ready, bag packed etc) only to find out that it wasn’t going to happen after all. Unfortunately this was only after multiple calls to her boss that morning chasing her about what time she should come in. What an emotional roller-coaster for her.
I know these examples may all seem like small beans in the big scheme of things, but to the people they are impacting, these are issues that are keeping them awake at night (aside from baby of course) and causing them additional stress about returning to work.
Getting back into the swing of things after maternity leave is never going to be easy. We are all nervous that we might not be able to do our jobs so well, scared about leaving our little ones, worried that our brains have gone to mush after baby and fearful of imposter syndrome. So please…if you are in HR, a company director or anyone else liaising with a new parent about KIT days, help them out, encourage them, respond to their emails and reassure them returning needn’t be so stressful. A positive experience at this early stage really does make the world of difference.
One positive story to finish on, because I feel I have been pretty negative in this post (sorry!)… A friend of mine just went it for a KIT day and she said the whole thing was incredibly empowering. She said her KIT day made her feel like her again and reminded her who she was before baby, organised, professional and poised (to me she always seems like that anyway but hey ho). She came back feeling excited to start work again when the time comes. So it’s not all bad…
If you have an example of something like this that’s been stressing you out, or alternatively a good news story, I would love to hear about it. Feel free to DM me, chat to me over social or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org