At the Conservative Party conference this week the Chancellor announced that the Government will extend shared parental leave and pay to working grandparents, to increase flexibility and choice in parental leave arrangements.
From 2018, grandparents will also be able to take paid time off work in the first year of their grandchild’s life, to enable the child’s parents to return to work. Parents and grandparents will be able to divide 37 weeks of statutory shared parental pay between them (currently £139.58 a week). It is envisaged that this will particularly help single mothers who want to return to work early and who don't have a partner to share their leave with.
According to the Government, evidence suggests that around 7 million grandparents are involved in childcare, with many giving up work, reducing their hours or taking time off work to help families who cannot afford childcare costs. The new system will allow grandparents to take such leave in the year following birth without fear of losing their job.
Employers will no doubt be concerned that the changes will mean even more complex rules on shared parental leave, given that the existing regime introduced this year is by no means straightforward. Employers who have decided to enhance shared parental pay on the same basis as maternity pay may also need to consider whether they will extend this to grandparents, although it is questionable how many working grandparents will actually exercise these new rights when they are introduced.
The Government will consult on the details of the new scheme in 2016 and plans to introduce it in 2018.