Parental leave is a subject that is close to the hearts of many employment lawyers. I seem to have been writing articles and giving seminars on parental leave and flexible working for most of the past 5 years and if media reports over the weekend are to be believed, it looks like this trend will continue.
Both BBC and The Guardian have reported that George Osbourne will announce changes to shared parental leave at the Conservative Conference in Manchester. It is rumoured that the proposed changes will allow a nominated working grandparent to take time off work to care for their grandchildren.
Details are sparse but it seems likely that the proposal will include grandparents and parents within the group of people who can share the 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of leave pay (currently £139.58 per week or 90% of average weekly earnings, whichever is the lower).
Mr Osbourne has suggested that the proposal will benefit working single mothers who presently cannot share parental leave. Additionally, with increases to the pension qualification age leading to more working grandparents, the proposals recognise the reality that for many families grandparents have become a cheap and convenient source of childcare.
We will be able to understand how the changes will work in practice when further details become available in due course. I anticipate that some practitioners may be concerned about the potential for fraudulent claims and it will be interesting to learn how the government proposes to deal with the issue of proving the family relationship and continuity of service for (potentially) three people.
Employers may recognise the value of attractive child care policies in recruitment and staff retention – Asda has received significant praise and positive PR reaction for offering “grandparent leave” since 2000 – and changes to the parental leave legislation could be an excellent opportunity to revisit and review flexible working policies.
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