During maternity leave | Contact with employer during maternity leave and return to work

An employer may make ‘reasonable contact’ with you during your maternity leave.  ‘Reasonable’ is not defined but your employer could contact you about:

  • any changes or developments at work
  • social events
  • colleagues who are leaving
  • new staff
  • arrangements for your return to work. 

It would not be reasonable for your employer to make repeated and persistent contact to ask when you are returning to work. This could be harassment.

Your employer must contact you if there:

  • Are promotion or other job opportunities. Failure to consult you so may be maternity discrimination; your employer should inform you what you need to do if you want to apply.
  • Is a redundancy situation. Failure to consult you about possible redundancies is likely to be maternity discrimination.
  • Is a re-organisation that would impact on your job.
  • Is the possibility of a pay rise, job opportunity or promotion which you need to apply for it. Your employer should inform you what you need to do.

Failure to inform you of the above is likely to be maternity discrimination if you suffer a disadvantage as a result of not being informed.

Yes, it is best to do so, if possible before or soon after you start your maternity leave. Think about what contact you want and have a discussion with your manager or Human Resources team about:

  • How much contact you want and how you would like to be contacted, for example by email, access to your employer’s intranet, letter or telephone call.
  • What the contact should cover, for example about staff leavers, new staff, training events, social activities.
  • Whether you want to receive employee news bulletins.
  • When your annual appraisal should take place, if it is due during your maternity leave.
  • Taking part in any training.
  • Keeping In Touch days and your pay for such days.
  • Other information that you would like to receive.

It is good practice for your employer to make clear:

  • They will provide as much, or as little, contact and information as you want, unless there is an obligation to inform or consult you.
  • That you are not under any obligation to work during maternity leave.
  • The amount you will be paid for all Keeping In Touch days worked.

Yes, if your employer agrees, you can work for up to 10 days during your maternity leave without this affecting your entitlement to statutory maternity pay.

If you take shared parental leave (SPL) you (and your partner if they take SPL) can work a further 20 days during SPL. https://www.gov.uk/shared-parental-leave-and-pay/starting-shared-parental-leave. If you are keen to work as much as possible, and your employer agrees, it is best to ask for 10 days work during your maternity leave period and a further 20 days during SPL. 

Yes, you are under no obligation to work, and your employer is not obliged to offer you work during your maternity leave.

This should be agreed between you and your employer. It is best to clarify this beforehand, so that you can be better prepared. 

The pay is a matter to be agreed between you and your employer, but normally this would be your normal rate. It is advisable to agree the pay before you do the work, particularly if you have to pay for childcare.

Your employer should not pressurise you to work during your maternity leave. You should say that working during your maternity leave is optional and that you do not want to do so. You might want to give a reason, such as the difficulty in getting childcare but you do not have to.

You are entitled to take up to 52 weeks’ maternity leave but you can return to work at any time after the compulsory maternity leave period, provided you give eight weeks’ notice.  Your employer can ask you if you would be willing to return earlier but should not:

  • Put pressure on you to return earlier than you want, by, for example, repeatedly asking you when you are going to return.
  • Threaten you with being disadvantaged, if you do not return earlier.
  • Disadvantage you if you change your mind about when you are going to return – though you must give the appropriate notice. 

Last updated: 12 May 2016