Earlier this month the government announced intention of extending the provisions of the shared parental leave and pay scheme to working grandparents. The Chancellor claims that the new legislation will help support working families with the cost of childcare in the first year of a child’s life, enabling parents to return to work earlier as a result. It is estimated that seven million grandparents help working parents by providing childcare, and that in order to do so a significant proportion of them have reduced the hours they work, taken time off work or given up work altogether. The contribution of grandparents to the economy in providing childcare is estimated at a value of £8 billion.
The new policy appears likely to have a positive impact on single mothers without a partner to share childcare responsibilities with, as more than half of mothers rely upon their own parents to help out following the birth of a new baby. It is envisaged that both shared parental leave and pay will be extended to grandparents, and presumably also the protection currently afforded to parents who seek to exercise their parental rights in the workplace. This includes the right not to suffer a detriment or be dismissed as a result of any request made under this legislation.
Anecdotal evidence would suggest that the impact upon employers of the existing shared parental leave and pay scheme has yet to be determined, as the take-up of the scheme appears to have been limited. Employers may however be anxious that the proposed extension will further widen the pool of employees who could be absent from the workplace for extended periods of time. Commentators have also noted that the proposal could dilute the intended effects of the original scheme, which was to encourage fathers to take a more active role in the early stages of their child’s life. The aim is to implement the extended policy by 2018, with consultation taking place in early 2016 and no doubt these concerns, as well as the impact upon employers of yet more legislative red tape and paperwork will be fully debated in the coming months.