During maternity leave

This guidance was last updated on September 2016

This section explains:

  • what an employee has to tell her department while she is on maternity leave;
  • contact arrangements between department and employee during maternity leave;
  • what work can be undertaken when an employee is on maternity leave.

Contact during maternity leave

Departments and their employees will often find it helpful, before maternity leave starts, to discuss arrangements for staying in touch with each other. This might include agreements on the way in which contact will happen, how often, and who will initiate the contact. It might also cover the reasons for making contact and the types of things that might be discussed. There is a section in the Maternity leave plan (74kb) for the employee to note her preferences in this respect.

During the maternity leave period, a department may make reasonable contact with an employee and, in the same way, an employee may make contact with her department. What constitutes "reasonable" contact will vary according to the circumstances. Some women will be happy to stay in close touch with the department and will not mind frequent contact. Others, however, will prefer to keep such contact to a minimum. The frequency and nature of the contact will depend on a number of factors such as the nature of the work and the employee's post, any agreement that the employer and employee might have reached before maternity leave began as to contact and whether either party needs to communicate important information to the other, such as, for example, news of changes at the workplace that might affect the employee on her return.

The contact between department and employee can be made in any way that best suits either or both of them. For example, it could be by telephone, email, letter, involving the employee making a visit to the workplace, or in other ways.

Departments should note that they must, in any event, keep the employee informed of information relating to her job that she would normally be made aware of if she was working.

Work during the maternity leave period – ‘Keeping In Touch’ (KIT) days

An employee may, by agreement with her department, do up to a maximum of ten days' work - known as ‘Keeping in Touch’ (KIT) days - under her contract of employment during the maternity leave period. Such days are different to the reasonable contact that departments and employees may have with each other, as during KIT days employees can actually carry out work for the department, for which they will be paid.

Any work carried out during the maternity pay period (39 weeks) or maternity leave period (52 weeks) will count as a whole KIT day, up to the ten-day maximum. In other words, if an employee comes in for a one hour training session and does no other work that day, she will have used one of her KIT days. Once a woman has exhausted her ten KIT days, if she does any other work she will lose a week's SMP for the week in which she has done that work.

The type of work that the employee undertakes on KIT days is a matter for agreement between the two parties. They may be used for any activity which would ordinarily be classed as work under the woman's contract but would be particularly useful, eg in enabling her to attend a conference, undertake a training activity or attend for a team meeting, for example.

This work during maternity leave may only take place by agreement between both the department and the employee. A department may not require a woman to work during her maternity leave if she does not want to, nor does a woman have the right to work KIT days if her department does not agree to them.

The KIT days can be undertaken at any stage during the maternity leave period, by agreement with the department with the exception that during the first two weeks after the baby is born (the compulsory maternity leave period) no work is permitted.

If it has been agreed with the department that the employee would like to work ‘Keeping in Touch’ days during her maternity leave, the employee will need to make sure that she responds when her department offers her this work. The department shoud give as much notice as possible of the work that they would like the employee to do and clarify what she will be paid for the work she does.

Payment for 'Keeping in Touch' (KIT) days

As KIT days allow work to be carried out under the employee's contract of employment, the employee is entitled to be paid for that work.

If a woman attends for work, she should be paid the equivalent of her normal hourly rate for the hours she works on the day in question. Therefore during the period of maternity leave that she is being paid at the rate of full pay, no further payment would be due. If an employee works her KIT day(s) during a period of SMP, her statutory pay should be enhanced to full pay, and if work takes place during a period of unpaid maternity leave, she should be paid the equivalent of her normal hourly rate for the hours she works. She will continue to be paid her SMP for the week in which the work is done.

There is a maximum limit of ten KIT days allowed under the maternity leave regulations and once a woman has used up her ten KIT days and she then does any further work, she will lose a week's SMP for the week in which she has done that work.

The hours to be worked must be agreed in advance between the department and the employee. The pay for this work should also be confirmed by the department in advance.

Any questions from departments about payment during KIT days should be directed to their HR Business Partner.

Notification of change of return to work dates while on maternity leave

Unless otherwise notified, the date on which an employee returns to work will normally be the first working day 52 weeks after her maternity leave began. The actual return date will normally be recorded in the Maternity Leave Plan, and can be checked by using the maternity calculator on the right-hand side.

(i) Return to work before the end of the maternity leave period

If the employee wishes to return to work before the end of her full maternity leave period (this will normally be the end date that the department confirmed to her before she went on leave), she must give her department at least eight weeks' notice of her return to work. This notice requirement applies throughout the whole period of leave. The notice period is the minimum that the department is entitled to expect, but the department may, at its discretion, accept less notice.

If the employee tries to return to work without having given the appropriate eight weeks' notice, the department may postpone her return until the end of the eight weeks' notice period. However, the department may not postpone her return to a date later than the end of her maternity leave period.

(ii) Return to work later than previously notified

An employee who has notified her department that she wishes to return to work before the end of her 52 weeks' entitlement to maternity leave, is entitled to change her mind. However, in these circumstances, she should give her department notice of this new, later date at least eight weeks before the earlier date.

(iii) Employees who do not wish to return to work after maternity leave

An employee who does not wish to return to work after her maternity leave must give her department the notice of termination required by her contract of employment. However, if a woman is in the position to do so, it would be helpful to her department if she can give as much notice as possible of her intention to leave her employment.

Please note: If a woman does not return to work for at least three months following her maternity leave period, departments may reclaim the whole of the non-statutory element of maternity pay. If a woman cannot return to work because her fixed-term contract has ended, it would not be expected that she would be required to repay any of her maternity pay.

Being paid

Women on maternity leave will be paid in exactly the same way that her salary would be paid if she were at work, on the day of the month, as set by Payroll. Whilst on full-pay maternity leave, SMP is included within full pay. It is not paid in addition to full-pay.

The woman's pay slip will be sent to her department (unless a different arrangement has been agreed) and the employee can ask her department to forward it to her home address.

If an employee is sick during her maternity leave, she cannot claim sick pay. If the employee is sick when her maternity leave is due to end, she will be deemed to be an employee who has returned to work but who is on sick leave under the University sick pay scheme.

Tier 2 and Tier 5 visa holders

Where the staff member taking maternity leave is a Tier 2 or Tier 5 visa holder and their period of leave will include a period paid either at the rate of statutory pay, or unpaid leave please refer to the Staff Immigration Team webpage for the latest guidance on what will need to be reported to the Home Office. See: www.admin.ox.ac.uk/personnel/permits/employresp/#d.en.51905.  For further information contact the Staff Immigration Team.

End of contract during maternity leave

If a woman's contract is due to end during her maternity leave period, normal arrangements for ending contracts will apply. However, it is recommended that the Departmental Administrator (or equivalent) contacts their HR Business Partner for guidance on the appropriate procedures.

If the woman has provided written confirmation that she wishes the department to seek suitable alternative employment for her within the University, this should be sought in the normal way.

If it has not been possible, under the normal University rules, to redeploy her, and her employment ends, then University pay and rights under the University's contractual maternity pay scheme end on the same day that her contract expires, and employment ends. She may continue to have entitlement to statutory maternity pay. Any such payment will be paid to the employee as a lump sum amount at the end of her employment.

For information on pay in relation to the expiry of fixed-term contracts during maternity leave click here.


Parents using the University nursery provision, childcare vouchers or salary sacrifice schemes must contact Childcare Services before the unpaid period, as the schemes operate differently during the unpaid period of maternity leave.