Addleshaw Goddard

UK 200 2013 position: 23

Keeping in touch with your maternity population

By Annabel Mackay

Employers have always been uncertain about the level of contact to maintain with an employee during maternity leave, with the result that in 2007 a specific provision was inserted in the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations that confirmed that reasonable contact was acceptable.

The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) guidance on that provision explains that the level of contact depends on the individual circumstances and the attitude of the employee. It is good practice to have a discussion with the employee about the level of contact that they would welcome before they go on maternity leave so that boundaries can be established. Employees should also be reminded of formal keeping-in-touch days where they can work up to 10 days (to be increased under the new shared parental leave system). 

A recent maternity case (Smith-Twigger v Abbey Protection Group) has illustrated the importance of maintaining contact during the maternity-leave period, although it has not been reported on that basis. Ms Smith-Twigger brought a complaint of unfavourable treatment against Abbey National Protection Group based on their failure to inform her that her job-share partner had left during her maternity-leave period. Ms Smith-Twigger worked from Monday to Thursday and another employee covered her role on Fridays. The arrangement was for a set period after which point Ms Smith-Twigger would return to full-time work. There was no formal job-share arrangement in place and Ms Smith-Twigger’s contract was still drafted on a full-time basis…

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