Can an employer contact an employee on maternity leave to ask if and when she intends to return to work?

There is a specific statutory provision enabling reasonable contact to be made between employer and employee during maternity leave, for example to discuss the employee's return to work, without it bringing the period of maternity leave to an end. Either party is entitled to make the reasonable contact.

However, if the employer does contact the employee in these circumstances, the employee is under no statutory obligation to reply. She is entitled simply to return to work at the end of additional maternity leave. If the employee wishes to return early, she must give eight weeks' prior notice. If the employee does not intend to return to work at all, she is obliged to give the notice of termination required by the contract of employment. Subject to these notice periods being given where appropriate, there is nothing the employer can do if the employee refuses to confirm on request if or when she intends to return to work.