There is growing evidence pointing to the fact that nearly 2 million grandparents in the UK have had to either give up work, reduce their working hours or have time off in order to help family members who cannot afford childcare costs. This can be particularly important for many part-time workers.
With this in mind, Chancellor George Osbourne has announced plans to implement a policy that by 2018 shared parental leave be extended to include working grandparents.
The government will consult on the details in the first half of next year but the evidence does show that more than half of UK mothers rely on grandparents for childcare when they first go back to work after maternity leave. It also suggests that over 60% of working grandparents with grandchildren under 16 do provide some form of childcare for their families.
The plans announced on 5th October 2015 at the Conservative party conference are to create a new system that will ensure greater flexibility for grandparents to help with their families without losing their jobs. With some seven million grandparents involved in childcare they may be contributing as much as £8bn each year to bridge the gap as work pressures increase.
The government considers that “The extension of shared parental leave and pay to working grandparents will ensure that hardworking families structure their lives in the way that works best for them.”
What is Shared Parental Leave?
Shared parental leave was introduced in April 2015. It replaces additional statutory paternity leave but it does not replace other forms of family friendly rights. It runs alongside rights to maternity leave, adoption leave, ordinary paternity leave and ‘normal’ unpaid parental leave.
Shared parental leave was brought in to enable working mothers to end their maternity leave in order to share leave and pay with their partner. Essentially, shared parental leave allows the mother to share up to 50 weeks of her maternity leave with the father. The leave can be shared in various combinations and currently allows the parents to share up to 37 weeks of the pay that the mother would otherwise be entitled to.
By being able to also share their leave with the child’s grandparents, it will provide an option for parents to return to work more quickly and will also encourage more grandparents to remain in employment, rather than quit their jobs to help with childcare.
However, this applies solely to working grandparents, non-working grandparents are unlikely to meet the eligibility criteria as they do not have a job to be concerned about.
The new system will also provide flexibility in working arrangements for grandparents without fear of losing their job. The government also hopes that these changes will benefit single mothers who, without a partner to share leave with, will now be able to do so with one of their child's grandparents instead.