Grandparents and Shared Parental Leave

The Government has announced plans to expand the Shared Parental Leave system to Grandparents from 2018.

Shared Parental Leave(SPL)was introduced in April 2015. It allows mothers to bring their maternity leave to an end and share their remaining entitlement with the child’s father, the mother’s civil partner, spouse or husband at the date of birth. This can be anything up to 50 weeks’ leave (the first two weeks of maternity leave must always be taken by the mother). Although admittedly complicated, SPL offers working families much more flexibility than maternity leave might. For example, it can allow both parents to take leave at the same time or allow both parents to split periods of leave (providing their employers agree).

With people increasingly working later into life, it is becoming increasingly common for grandparents to be in work when their grandchildren arrive. The proposed amendments to SPL would permit grandparents to remain in work but split leave with the family to help with childcare in the same way that fathers/spouses or partners currently can. For parents, the scheme offers obvious advantages;it increases the potential pool of people who may be able to assist with child care, which could be particularly useful where one parent is unable to take shared parental leave.

The changes do pose some difficulties, however.Under SPL there is at least a perceived risk that families may take leave based on the financial advantages of their respective employers’ policies where employers offer over statutory minimum pay andthey may now be able to look to their parents’ entitlements as well. The perceived risk of ‘benefit shopping’ may be increased by this latest development and may deter employers from offering more generous policies that pay over the statutory minimum (currently £139.58).If so, the changes could ultimately be counterproductive for many working parents. Employers will also have to be careful that their policies,or the ways in which they are applied, do not discriminate against older employees.

However, businesses should not overlook the benefits of adopting more generous policies around flexible working and taking leave. Ultimately, flexibility is likely to assist businesses in retaining skilled and valuable employees for longer.

The consultation is likely to take place in the early part of next year and it will be interesting to see how these concerns are addressed.