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Hot topic: Extension of Shared Parental Leave, part two


Older people have been given the right to take time off to help care for their grandchildren

A recent government announcement extends the shared parental leave allowance to working grandparents. Is this a step forward for flexibility and working parents? Or does the policy run the risk of reducing the amount of men taking shared parental leave? And will it be easy for HR to implement? Two HR experts have their say.

"Allowing grandparents the opportunity to share the current allowance of 52 weeks’ leave and 39 weeks’ pay is a step forward for working families, allowing parents to get back to work sooner. The impact on single parents, who did not have the option of sharing their leave with a partner, will be significant.

Evidence suggests nearly two million grandparents have given up work, decreased their hours, or taken time off to assist with childcare. These reforms have the benefit of encouraging grandparents to stay in the workforce by giving them the flexibility to balance childcare with work commitments.

However, one of the key aims of SPL was to encourage fathers to play a greater caring role, affecting a cultural shift in the way we view the responsibility for raising children. There are concerns that reforming the regime so soon will not allow time for these ideals to become entrenched. Instead the status quo, where childcare is viewed as being the remit of mothers and grandparents, will continue.

Changes to SPL will be an administrative headache for businesses. It seems likely that grandparents will be entitled to similar patterns of leave as those afforded to parents. Grandparents’ entitlement to SPL also creates a risk of increased costs, particularly for companies that offer enhanced SPL pay. In addition, a failure to extend enhanced SPL pay to grandparents if it is offered to parents could be discriminatory.

The government aims to implement the policy by 2018 and will consult on it in the first half of 2016. As such the exact details of the changes are not yet available. However, organisations should start to examine their policies now and consider the potential effects."

Kate Meadowcroft is employment director at law firm DWF

Read the first part of this Hot Topic with the LSE's Natalie Pancheri