During the first day of the Conservative party conference this week, Chancellor George Osbourne announced plans for working grandparents to take parental leave and pay in order to look after their grandchildren.
The plan involves extending the current system, which allows both mothers and fathers to take time off to look after their children, so that working grandparents can also take time off from work to help care for their grandchildren.
The current system of shared parental leave was introduced late last year, and is available for children whose expected week of birth begins on or after 5 April 2015 (or who are placed for adoption after that date). Shared parental leave can be taken either as a continuous period, or at different times throughout the year, and mothers and fathers can opt to take the leave consecutively or concurrently, providing the option for new parents to take more time off together.
As a result of the Government’s plan to extend the scheme, there will be a further increase in flexibility and choice in parental leave arrangements and employers will be likely to receive more requests for leave from an even broader spectrum of employees.
Many grandparents play a crucial role in providing childcare and supporting working parents. Evidence suggests that nearly 2 million grandparents have given up work, reduced their hours, or taken time off to help parents struggling with the costs of childcare. However, they have never had a statutory right to do so.
The proposed system will mean that families will be allowed to split parental leave for up to 12 months after a baby is born as well as share their entitlement to parental pay (statutory parental pay is currently paid at the rate of £139.58 a week or 90% of average weekly earnings, whichever is lower).
The Government has said that one in ten working grandparents who have never taken time off to care for grandchildren have reportedly not been able to do so as they have either been refused time off by their employer, or have felt they were unable to ask. As a result, the Chancellor hopes the new system will allow parents to return to work more quickly if they wish to do so, and will mean that employers will have to consider how best to accommodate increasingly complex childcare arrangements for their employees.
The government aims to implement the policy by 2018, and will consult on the details in the first half of next year.
If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Employment department.