During maternity leave

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. 

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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 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. 

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An employee may, by agreement with their department, do up to a maximum of 10 days' work - known as ‘Keeping in Touch’ (KIT) days - under their 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. 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, for example in enabling her to attend a conference, undertake a training activity or attend for a team meeting.

The 10-day maximum applies in all cases and is not pro-rated for part-time staff. Any work carried out during the maternity pay period (39 weeks) or maternity leave period (52 weeks) is counted as a whole KIT day, ie if the employee does 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 10 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, and risks automatically bringing her maternity leave to an end. 

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 should 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. 

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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. KIT days worked after the full pay portion of maternity leave should be paid at the equivalent of the employee's normal hourly rate for the hours worked. 

There is a maximum limit of 10 KIT days allowed under the maternity leave regulations and once a woman has used up her 10 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. 

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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 tool. 

(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 she would not be required to repay any of her maternity pay as long as she had confirmed at the start of the maternity leave that she intended to return to work if suitable alternative work could be found.

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Whilst on full-pay maternity leave:

  • if the mother is eligible for SMP to be paid by the University it is included within full pay. It is not paid in addition to full-pay;
  • If the mother is claiming SMP from a previous employer, or MA from Jobcentre Plus the pay she receives will be calculated to take account of the SMP she is being paid so that the combination of the statutory pay and her pay from the University will be equivalent to her normal full rate of pay;
  • If the mother has no entitlement to statutory payments she will receive payment equivalent to her normal full rate of pay.

Payments made by the University will be paid in exactly the same way that the employee's salary would be paid if she were at work, on the day of the month, as set by Payroll. Payments being made from previous employers or Jobcentre plus will be paid according to their own pay arrangements.

Pay slips can be viewed as normal via HR Self-Service. 

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. 

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If an employee’s contract is due to end during the maternity leave period, this must be discussed with an HR Business Partner. Under the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023, employees who are pregnant, on maternity leave and in the period up until 18 months after the child was born or placed are entitled to enhanced protection if they are at risk of redundancy.  This is typically during the final 3 months of the contract in which period they are considered to be a priority candidate). This means that they should be given priority consideration for redeployment opportunities. If the employee has provided written confirmation that they wish the department to seek suitable alternative employment for them within the University, this should be sought in the normal way. Whilst every effort should be made to support redeployment, there is no guarantee that suitable redeployment will be found: suitable alternative employment (ie where the postholder meets at least the minimum essential selection criteria for the role) may not arise during the relevant period of time. If it has not been possible to redeploy them, and the employment ends, then University pay and rights under the University's contractual maternity pay scheme end on the same day that the contract expires, and employment ends. If they have been receiving SMP via the University they 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 their employment.

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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. 

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During the whole period of maternity leave the employee is entitled to receive all her contractual benefits with the exception of remuneration. This includes all non-cash benefits such as childcare vouchers. 


Please note:

If an employee is currently using University childcare tax saving schemes (such as the nursery fee salary sacrifice scheme or the childcare vouchers scheme) it is important that they seek advice about the changes which occur within these schemes during the unpaid period of maternity leave. Further information can be obtained by contacting the Childcare Services team at childcarefinance@admin.ox.ac.uk or on 01865 (2) 89835 or visit the Childcare Services web pages. 


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Contractual annual leave (including bank holidays and fixed closure days) will accrue throughout the full 52 weeks of maternity leave.   Since this can mean that 38 days, or more, of leave is accrued during the period of maternity leave, departments may wish to ask that any annual leave which has been accrued during the pregnancy is taken by the start of maternity leave.  In the event that a maternity leave period crosses over two annual leave years, the full  accrued, untaken leave balance is carried forward into the new leave year. The employing department may ask a woman returning to work to use up the accrued, untaken balance of her annual leave from the leave year that has ended at the end of her maternity leave period. This will assist departments in managing the larger amounts of annual leave that will be accrued during maternity leave. 

However, departments retain the right to make annual leave arrangements with their employees to fit in with operational requirements. Women must agree when they will take annual leave in advance with their department, and they may wish to consider retaining some of their annual leave to allow them to take time off, as required, to allow them to take time off to look after their children should they be ill, or need some additional support, whilst settling into a nursery or with new childcarers. It should be clarified to the employee early on that whilst a small amount of paid leave is available to staff for dealing with domestic emergencies and acute caring needs, this is not intended to cover foreseeable issues such those outlined above, and in most cases it would be anticipated that annual leave would be used to cover such circumstances.  

If a woman wishes to take annual leave at the end of her maternity leave period, she is deemed to have returned to work at the notified date and then she may take her annual leave as agreed with her department. 

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When an employee is on maternity leave, her normal employee contributions to her pension will continue to be deducted at the appropriate rate while she is on full pay and when she is on statutory maternity pay. The University will also continue to make its contributions at the appropriate rate. When the employee is on zero pay, no contributions are payable by either her or the University. 

If, when she returns to work, she would like to make up the pensions contributions that she did not pay because she was on reduced or zero pay during maternity leave, the employee may do so. The Pensions Office will be able to advise the employee on her individual situation. 

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The University follows the same rules as are applied to statutory payments and sick pay cannot be claimed at the same time as maternity pay. Employees are therefore disqualified from receiving sick pay until the period of paid maternity pay has ended. 

If an employee comes to the end of maternity leave and is too ill to return to work, because of childbirth or some other reason, she should still notify the department in the normal way that she wishes to return to work. If she remains too ill to return to work after the date on which she was intending to return to work, she must provide the department with a medical certificate and should be treated as though she had returned to work and was absent from work due to sickness. 

The University sick leave scheme only covers the sickness of the employee and not sickness suffered by any of their dependents. 

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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.  For further information contact the Staff Immigration Team.