The first consultation on the extension of shared parental leave to grandparents will be launched in May, Chancellor George Osborne announced in the Budget.
Grandparental leave: current options for employees
Shared parental leave was introduced for parents of babies due on or after 5 April 2015, allowing mothers to cut short maternity leave to allow their partner to share their leave.
Under the current legislation, the right to shared parental leave is limited to the mother’s partner.
Typically, this will be the child’s father, or the mother’s partner if there is an enduring family relationship.
Other relatives, including grandparents, are specifically excluded from eligibility for shared parental leave.
At last year’s Conservative party conference, George Osborne announced plans to extend shared parental leave to grandparents from 2018, allowing mothers to share maternity leave with one nominated working grandparent.
He stated that shared grandparental leave would help families to keep childcare costs down, with grandparents playing a central role in caring for their grandchildren.
Grandparental leave: approaches in other countries
In the Budget on 16 March, Osborne affirmed the Government’s commitment. He said the first consultation on the implementation of shared parental leave for grandparents will be published in May.
He added that the consultation will put forward “options for streamlining the [shared parental leave] system, including simplifying the eligibility requirements and notification system”.
Stephen Simpson, principal employment law editor at XpertHR, said that, while HR professionals may support the idea in principle of leave for grandparents, they are likely to be concerned by further complexity to shared parental leave rules.
“It’s impossible to overstate the difficulty of the current shared parental leave rules, which has surely put employers and employees off this type of leave,” said Simpson.
“HR professionals will be relieved to learn that the consultation will also look at options for cutting down on the convoluted rules.”
“Ultimately, this is what may have a longer term impact for employers, particularly because grandparents are already catered for under the right to request flexible working, which is now available to any employee with 26 weeks’ service.”
Shared parental leave: which relatives are eligible now?
Under the current system, “partners” are eligible for shared parental leave.
“Partner” means the father of the child, or the person who, at the date of the child’s birth, is married to, the civil partner of, or the partner of the mother.
This includes someone, of either sex, who lives with the mother and the child in an enduring family relationship but who is not the mother’s child, parent, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece or nephew.