In June, David Cameron announced that he would look at proposals for grandparents to share up to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave. Meanwhile in October, it was announced that the Government will look to introduce the scheme in the next few years. Keystone’s employment lawyer David Jepps discusses the concept and what it could mean for families.

6th October 2015

Further to the commentary below from June 2015, the Government has now announced plans to introduce Shared (Grand) Parental Leave possibly in 2018 and subject to consultation in the new year.

Whilst Unions and employee groups will welcome such plans, Business organisations are already bemoaning the prospect of further regulatory changes. It is important to note that the proposals are only likely to apply to working grandparents and, given that there are still no plans for any parental leave to be paid, the practical impact would be rather minimal.

8th June 2015

Current legislation states that every employee with a child under the age of 18 has the legal right to take anything up to 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave before, or on the date of, the child’s 18th birthday.Prior to 30 June last year, the right to request flexible working was restricted to only mothers, fathers, adopters, guardians and foster parents, as well as their partners, meaning that the vast majority of grandparents were not eligible. However, since then nearly all employees have been eligible to make a flexible working request.The concept of flexible working comes in a variety of different forms. With a range of potential options, including working from home and flexi-time, it appears that the idea certainly has the potential to help grandparents participate in looking after their grandchildren.But the notion is not without its faults. Even if the proposals for grandparents to share parental leave are accepted by the government, an employer is not obligated to grant any one request. Often, the overheads associated with accepting applications, along with contractual issues, can be off-putting from the employer’s perspective.An alternative to extending the right to shared parental leave for grandparents might be to extend the current system of ordinary parental leave to cover grandchildren. Ordinary parental leave is entirely separate to shared parental leave and entitles those with parental responsibility to a total of 18 weeks’ unpaid leave which they are free to use until the child turns 18.This concept could be beneficial for those grandparents who, rather than taking on the long-term responsibility of care, would actually seek to look after their grandchildren for shorter periods – such as when a parent travels abroad for work, or simply takes a holiday.The right to request flexible working was extended to all employees with more than six months’ service by David Cameron’s coalition. Parental leave usually applies to the parents but could, actually, already apply to a grandparent with guardian status. Typically, parental leave has been used purely by mothers to extend maternity leave. The indication from David Cameron of extensions to parental leave to apply to grandparents seems a natural extension of recent family-friendly laws. The right for mothers to share some maternity leave with fathers has recently been introduced, meaning that employers now have to be more prepared for new family-friendly absences that don’t just relate to the mothers they employ.But we must remember that parental leave is currently unpaid and as such, the take-up so far has consistently been very low.

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This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.