The government last week announced that it would extend shared parental leave and pay to working grandparents.

As such, it will bring forward legislation to enable the change, with the aim of implementing the policy by 2018. It has also said that it will consult on the details in the first half of next year.

According to the government, evidence shows that more than half of mothers rely on grandparents for childcare when they first go back to work after maternity leave, and over 60 per cent of working grandparents with grandchildren aged under 16 provide some childcare. In total, some seven million grandparents are involved in childcare.

Of working grandparents who have never taken time off work to care for grandchildren under 16, around one in 10 have not been able to do so because they have either been refused time off by their employer, or simply felt that they weren’t able to ask.

A survey conducted by the charity, Grandparents Plus, earlier this year revealed that one in five working parents (19 per cent) would give up work if they no longer had grandparents to rely on for childcare. With 10.8 million working parents in the UK that would mean more than two million having to give up their jobs.

The figure rises to 22 per cent of working mums who said they would give up work and a further 20 per cent who would reduce their hours; 15 per cent of dads said they would give up work and a further 11 per cent would cut back on hours.

The poll also found that:

  • 59 per cent of parents agreed that it should be possible to share periods of unpaid parental leave with a grandparent who may be helping with childcare
  • 21 per cent of parents said they would pay for childcare if they didn’t have a grandparent to rely on.

Gerard Airey of Thompsons Solicitors commented “This would be a welcome development for both parents and grandparents if this extension of rights becomes law. This could assist families greatly and should be seen as a step in the right direction.”