Shared parental leave pay to be extended to grandparents

Posted on: October 7th, 2015

The Chancellor, George Osborne, has announced that shared parental leave and pay will be extended to working grandparents.  The government plans to consult on the details in early 2016 and aims to implement the changes by 2018.

Background

Shared parental leave and pay was introduced for working parents with babies due or children placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015.

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, for example the mother and father could take the first six months off together, the mother could take the first 8 months off and the father take the remainder or they could ask to take alternative months off. 

The same applies to allow the primary adopter to share their adoption leave with their spouse or partner.

The right to shared parental pay currently allows the parents to share up to 37 weeks of the pay that the mother or adopter would otherwise be entitled, currently at £139.58 a week or 90% of average weekly earnings whichever is lower.

Certain eligibility criteria and conditions must be met in order to qualify and employers may refuse requests for discontinuous patterns of leave for business reasons.

The planned change is to extend the current system to cover working grandparents.

Why?

The Government believes that the changes will increase flexibility and choice in childcare arrangements, and will assist working parents with the costs of childcare. Parents may be able to return to work sooner, if they wish to.

The government also hopes that the 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.

The announcement refers to evidence that nearly 2 million grandparents have given up work, reduced their hours or have taken time off work to help families who cannot afford childcare costs. The government also stated that working grandparents had been unable to take time off to care for grandchildren because they have either been refused time off by their employer, or simply felt that they were unable to ask.

What the announcement doesn’t say is how this will work in practice. The current system is already complex, with employers needing to deal with various notices and counter notices and communicate with other businesses to check their employee’s eligibility. Any further change is likely to increase the administrative burden on employers and cause more unexpected disruptions to businesses.