Employees can work for up to ten days whilst on maternity, paternity, adoption or parental leave without impacting their leave or pay. These are called Keeping in Touch days and are completely optional, agreed by both parties prior. But what can you expect from doing one of these days and why would you bother? Here is a guest blog, from someone who wishes to remain anonymous, describing their experience:
I recently completed a ‘keep in touch’ day at work. I’d been putting it off for a while, but my return is imminent so I bit the bullet and jumped in with both feet. What followed was quite the cocktail of emotions, but I’d do it all over again – so I thought I’d put my story into print to hopefully help anybody who is sitting on the fence about using a KIT day or two, or even someone who is dead against venturing into work before absolutely necessary.
I’d heard people talk about their return to work and describe it as ‘feeling like the new girl’ but I didn’t quite connect the same feeling with a KIT day – silly really, of course it was going to feel at least a little bit like that! As soon as I walked in it was a little like the twilight zone – the same building, same office, same decor, but so many new faces and old ones in new places. It really played havoc with my memory! I felt like a constant people watcher all day as I scanned around to recognise faces, and answer the obligatory ‘are you back?’ with my stock answer of ‘not just yet, just making use of a KIT day’. I sounded robotic by the end of the day I’m sure!
There were the inevitable meetings – catching up with the person doing my mat cover was one of the first and probably one of the oddest. All at once I felt protective over what I’d been doing PB (pre-baby) but so detached at the same time. I had to resist so many times asking if she had considered x or y as she talked me through current plans when I spotted some things I’d have done differently, after the first couple of discussions it was obvious she wanted me to back off. At this point I was ready to put my coat on and say cheerio, but in the back of my mind I quickly reminded myself that it wasn’t my place right now to feel frustrated and that I could re-group before my actual return.
I navigated the rest of the day with minimal fuss, taking the opportunity to catch up with people I hadn’t seen for months, remind my director I’ve had a baby not a lobotomy and enjoyed using a handbag which wasn’t filled with nappies as well as slurping several cups of hot tea…yep that’s right they do exist!
Being away from my baby for nine hours was super hard, but the evening I was back was a little bit more special and bath time was filled with more fun and splashing than usual. I was doubtful when my husband assured me that I’d enjoy my time with our little lady just a little bit more having had some time away, but he was so right. I got an insight into a ‘new me’ as well – the me who is returning to work whilst leaving the most precious thing in my world at home. I had wondered for months how I would feel and what I would be like as I make my way back into the world of corporate work and my day in the office gave me a snap shot of it. Rather than scaring or worrying me it actually gave me hope. Hope that I can balance what I need to thanks to some insightful people I work with; that just because I’m not with my baby it doesn’t mean the world stops for either of us; that spending time with other people is good for my little one and lastly that I’m still able to function in the world of work.
Before I went for my KIT day I was apprehensive about so many things – being away from my baby, leaving her with someone who doesn’t know her quirks like I do, would I have forgotten everything I once knew at work, would I be able to fit into my old work clothes?! I came out the other side virtually unscathed and with a fresh view on the world. What I thought would make me nervous for my return actually gave me a renewed confidence…I may even do another one!
There are many reasons why a KIT day can be useful. It can really help with removing the dread of that first day back. You’ll have already chatted to your colleagues, done that journey in the car, squeezed back into those trousers. The looming single maternity leave end date becomes more of a gradual change. You can use it as an opportunity to chat informally about any flexible working request or changes to your work that you might be considering. Not to mention hear about changes that have happened or are happening that might work in your favour. Interesting projects, new members of the team, upcoming workload etc. Your line manager could inform you of these over the phone but in my experience it was great to get more insight on this from being in the building. You remind people that you exist and are coming back. I know you shouldn’t need to but ‘out of sight, out of mind’ can ring true. And finally it can be a way to catch up with training you might have missed, attend a team meeting so you are more informed of what is happening in future, perhaps get ahead with what you’ll be doing on your first day and week back. You can talk about your induction and what that looks like, sort out any tech requirements before day one, understand what’s happening in the business so you don’t feel so out of the loop.
And a final few tips on how to make the most of your day(s). Talk to your employer about when and what you’ll be doing. They might be able to recommend days when certain people will be available or things are happening that would be useful. Sort out childcare well in advance and make sure you are comfortable with the arrangements. This is a sort of trial run for the real thing so you will want to be happy with what is going on. And know your stuff in terms of what you will be paid and how they work, here is a good place to start (including info about using KIT days if you are self employed).
And lastly, they might feel a bit scary but know that actually they can be hugely helpful x
If you want to feel fully prepared, confident and in control of your return to work after maternity leave our Rock your Return programme provides a huge dose of cheerleading with tools, techniques and support that can really help. All the details can be found here.