Grandparents will be able to take paid time off work for childcare under government plans to extend the existing shared parental leave, however policy announcement ‘may not be welcomed by employers'.
Parents and grandparents will be able to divide the statutory shared parental pay between them, which is £139.58 a week or 90 per cent of average weekly earnings.
Chancellor George Osborne made the announcement as the Conservative Party conference began in Manchester this week.
The extension of rights to more members of a family will particularly help single mothers, the Conservatives said, as they don't have a partner to share it with. This additional flexibility around sharing maternity leave is expected to help all parents return to work more quickly as Osborne said more than half of mothers turn to grandparents for childcare when they first go back to work. He said: "Research shows two million grandparents have either given up a job, reduced their hours or taken time off work to look after their grandchildren. "Allowing them instead to share leave with their children will keep thousands more in the workplace, which is good for our economy."
However, Linda Jones, head of employment at Pinsent Masons, said that the announcement would “not be welcomed by employers” given that they have only had six months to get to grips with the “complex rules” around shared parental leave, which was introduced earlier this year.
“There may also be concerns about cost, given that many employers have decided to enhance shared parental pay on the same basis as maternity pay," she said. "However, any concerns may prove to be unfounded as it’s unlikely that many employees will be rushing to take up the new benefit.”
Jones said the new policy may prove popular with single mothers or in situations where both parents are keen to return to work early, but she added “those cases are likely to be the exception”. “In addition, the chancellor has promised to keep the rules simple, which will be a relief to employers given the labyrinthine nature of the original shared parental leave regulations.” Labour has also proposed extending shared parental leave to include grandparents in its manifesto for women.
Are you ready for shared parental leave?
Shared parental leave is a new type of family leave available to parents of babies due, or children placed for adoption, from 5 April 2015. Up to 50 weeks' of leave and 37 weeks' of statutory pay will be available and for the first time, eligible parents will be able to choose which parent takes leave, when the leave is taken, and even to take leave at the same time if they choose to do so.
For more details please get in touch.