Over the past decade, the number of children being cared for by their grandparents has risen dramatically. But good news was announced by the Government recently: that the one-year, shared parental leave allowed to working parents following the birth or adoption of a child would finally be extended to working grandparents who provide care for their grandchildren.
The policy, which is due to be implemented within the next three years, is, according to many a significant step forward. It acknowledges the critical role that grandparents play where it comes to supporting their families via grandchild care. It also acknowledges and addresses the lost income from working that grandparents are currently experiencing as a result of choosing to provide that care.
Currently, there is an entitlement of 52 weeks off for the parents of newly-born or newly-adopted children. The new legislation will see this 52 weeks being able to be shared between parents as well as a nominated grandparent.
The amount allotted for statutory parental pay is currently £139.5 per week or 90% of a parent’s weekly earnings, whichever is the lower amount. This amount would also be able to be shared with the nominated grandparent under the new legislation.
Grandparents Heavily Relied On
Research has revealed that grandparents may be paying dearly to help their families, to the tune of a potential £8bn annually.
All told, it is estimated that as many as seven million grandparents may be currently providing childcare to their grandchildren, and without compensation from the Government.
Financial Relief for Less Time on the Job
This new policy also addresses the circumstances common among many grandparents in this country; one which has seen them leaving their jobs, taking vacation time or reducing their working hours in order to provide the needed childcare.
One in ten grandparents has never left work to care for their grandchildren. This is due to more than one factor. Many grandparents are prohibited by their employers to take time off work to help their children with childcare. Still others would like to provide care, but don’t feel as though they can ask their employers to do so.
The aim of this new policy is to offer grandparents more flexibility at their jobs so that they can help their children to cut down on childcare costs. Parents also benefit from flexibility in this new scheme, as it allows them to choose the amount of time they need off of work once a child is born or adopted.
As with any new Government legislation, many questions abound with regard to the details of the policy. For example, many are wondering in how many ways compensation can be divided, including whether or not a step, or foster parent can be legally considered a parent or grandparent.
Early 2016 will see consultation about the details of the new legislation that is likely to answer the above questions, with more details to be released in the six months following.
Tricia Hay is Owner, Director of First Base Employment Limited