George Osborne has announced plans to extend Shared Parental Leave (SPL) to grandparents by 2018. According to some research two million grandparents, which is about 5% of the working population, have given up their jobs or reduced their hours in order to care for their grandchildren. As such, these proposals, if they affected all such grandparents, could have a significant impact on employers. At the moment there is limited detail about the proposals, but how concerned should employers be about the likely impact?
At the moment, there is no official estimate of how many people the extension of SPL to grandparents is likely to affect. However, it is likely to be significantly less than two million. This is because SPL can only be taken during the first year of a child’s life. In addition, it is unlikely to assist those grandparents who, rather than giving up work for a short period of time, wish to reduce their hours. According to research produced for the Department of Education in 2011, the majority of grandparents provide less than 10 hours’ childcare per week. For those grandparents, the existing ability to be able to request flexible working is likely to be of most assistance.
What should employers be doing now?
In short, at the moment, there is nothing for employers to do at the moment. This policy is only in its very early stages and consultation on the detail is not expected until the first half of 2016.
What rights do grandparents have in the workplace?
Currently, there are no specific employment rights targeted at grandparents. However, as mentioned above, the right to request flexible working may be of help to those grandparents who wish to reduce their hours to care for grandchildren. Such requests should be properly considered by employers, in accordance with the statutory framework.
Similarly, employers should avoid discrimination against grandparents, who may be able to bring claims on the basis of associative discrimination or indirect discrimination (if they can show that people of their sex/age are likely to be disadvantaged by an employer’s policy).
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