Grandparents will have the legal right to take time off work to look after their grandchildren. The new proposal was announced by the Chancellor, George Osborne, at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
Currently, parents have the right to take up to 52 weeks of shared parental leave when they have a baby. The Chancellor’s proposal won’t extend the number of weeks a couple can take off, but will give parents the option to share their leave entitlement with the child’s grandparents during the newborn’s first year.
The caveat to the proposal is that the grandparent must be working to be eligible for the scheme. Mr Osborne said that grandparents often play a “central role” in child care and pointed out that a lot of grandparents give up work, or reduce their hours in order to look after their grandchildren. He said:
“Allowing them instead to share leave with their children will keep thousands more in the workplace, which is good for our economy.”
As well as sharing the parental leave allocation, eligible grandparents will be able to share 37 weeks of parental leave pay, which is £139.58 per week at present, or 90 per cent of their average weekly earnings, whichever one is lower.
The Chancellor hopes that extending shared parental leave to include grandparents will help some parents return to work earlier. He also said that it was good news for single parents who would now be able to take advantage of the shared parental leave entitlement if they had an eligible grandparent.
Grandparents who participate in the scheme will also have the legal right to return to their workplace at the end of the year.
Earlier this year, the charity Grandparents Plus polled just over 1,000 British adults and found that 51 per cent of those polled thought grandparents should be eligible to share parental leave. Meanwhile 58 per cent said they would prefer a grandparent to look after their child if their partner couldn’t.
The idea of grandparents sharing parental leave was previously put forward by the Liberal Democrats during the coalition.The Labour Party’s Harriet Harman also put forward a similar plan in June. At the time, the Prime Minister said he was happy to look at the proposals.