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Yes, that’s right, plans to extend ‘Shared Parental Leave’ to Grandparents have recently been announced and first consultations started in May this year.

Now, I look at this as a mother and a HR Professional and initially had mixed feelings of…..‘Great, my mum could possibly get paid time off work to help when I consider growing my family’ but also, ‘What are small and medium sized business owners and managers going to say about this when I tell them!’

Current options for working parents

GrandparentalLeaveFor parents of children due on or after 5th April 2015, shared parental leave allows mothers to share their leave with their partner or the child’s father. Other relatives, including grandparents, are excluded from shared parental leave currently.

Under the current legislation, the only option for grandparents wanting to take time off work to look after their grandchildren is the right to request flexible working. Under the new law proposed, working grandparents would have the right to take time off to look after their grandchild during the first year of a child’s life.

It’s becoming a well-known fact that many mothers rely on the ‘grandparents’ for childcare when they first return to work after having a baby, I know I did. They play a very central role in caring for their grandchildren and support in helping to keep down the cost of childcare.
A real issue for myself and many parents is the cost of childcare in the very early years and later for pre-school children. Along with announcements for Grandparental Leave, the Government announced plans to start rolling out 30 hours of free childcare for working parents of 3 and 4 year olds from 2017 (at present all parents of 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare).

Proposed Grandparental leave and pay by 2018

From 2018, the government is proposing that parents will be allowed to transfer part of their Shared Parental Leave to grandparents. It’s thought that if Shared Parental Leave was shared with grandparents, it would allow mum and dad to return to work more quickly.

The finer details of this proposed scheme are yet to be worked out. It’s not clear whether there will be a pot of leave per child and to be shared across what could be four grandparents per child! And what happens with those grandparents who have several grandchildren?
However, we do know that the rate of pay is aimed to be at the same rates as statutory maternity and paternity pay.

Possible implications for Employers

Businesses are understandably going to be nervous about this proposed extension and the complexity around it.

Since the abolishment of the default retirement age and age discrimination protection, we are more than likely to see a rise in the over 65s in the workplace. We at EST HR will be keeping a close eye on the possibility that the introduction of Grandparental Leave gives rise to a whole new area of potential sex and age discrimination claims. For example, where businesses already offer enhanced Shared Parental Leave but don’t want to or feel they can’t afford to extend this to Grandparental Leave.

However, one advantage of the proposed scheme is that employers will be seen to be encouraging and supporting more grandparents to remain in the workplace instead of ‘leaving’ their jobs to help look after their grandchildren.

Santander are one of the first employers to have made a progressive move and already extend its Shared Parental Leave scheme to include grandparents. They have seen the benefits of implementing such a scheme, in that it has enabled workers of all ages to balance their commitments in and out of the workplace.

We are advising all clients to monitor their current Shared Parental Leave policies and to think in advance about how they will adapt this policy to cater for the proposed Grandparental leave rights. Whilst the take-up of Shared Parental Leave has been very low to date, we think that Grandparental leave might be more popular.

And if you do not currently have a Shared Parental Leave policy in place within your handbook, then feel free to get in touch on 02921 303888