U.K.: Grandparent Leave Could Be Expensive for Employers, Attorney Writes

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By Rick Vollmar

Oct. 15—A proposal put forward Oct. 4 by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne to allow working grandparents to take time off to help care for their grandchildren “may not be such good news for employers,” Michael Briggs, a senior associate in the Employment Department of U.K. law firm Shoosmiths, writes on the CIPD website, because “with an aging workforce, the number of working grandparents that may benefit from the proposed extension will be significant.”

Under Osborne's proposal, expected to be put into practice in 2018, mothers and fathers would have the option to share with one of their parents as much as 50 weeks of parental leave and 37 weeks of parental-leave pay, currently 139.58 pounds ($212) a week or 90 percent of average weekly earnings, whichever is less.

“It is not yet clear to what extent employers will be affected by these proposals,” Briggs writes on the HR professional association site, “but the potential for a significant impact, based on statistics alone, is likely to remain.”

‘Significant' Implications

Briggs cites research from the Trade Union Council showing that 7 million grandparents currently provide regular childcare to their grandchildren, of whom 2 million have given up work or reduced their hours. Given these numbers, “the implications of the government’s proposals for employers are . . . significant,” according to Briggs.

And this comes on top of problems employers already face as demographics skew towards an older population.

“In addition to the proposed extension of shared parental leave,” Briggs writes, “an increasing older workforce means that employers are likely to face a new wave of requests for flexible working arrangements which is in addition to a working grandparent’s existing rights to unpaid time off to care for dependents. Employers will . . . need to be ready to adapt in the area of parental leave and pay.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Rick Vollmar at rvollmar@bna.com

Briggs's article is available at http://www.cipd.co.uk/pm/peoplemanagement/b/weblog/archive/2015/10/12/implications-of-adding-grandparents-to-shared-parental-leave-and-pay.aspx, a summary of the TUC's research at https://www.tuc.org.uk/workplace-issues/employment-rights/working-time-holidays/work-life-balance/nearly-seven-million.

For more information on British HR law and regulation, see the U.K. primer.