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Making life easier for working grandparents


Did you know that Sunday 6 October 2019 is National Grandparents Day in the UK?

It’s an ideal opportunity to make a fuss of our grandmas and grandpas and recognise just how much they mean to us.

Grandparents are often the unsung heroes in our society – with many looking after grandchildren so their own children can go out to work without shelling out for daily childcare.

In many cases, the grandparents are still of working age themselves so must juggle their own paid employment with caring for their grandchildren.

And, with the UK government planning further rises to the state pension age, there will be even more grandparents putting in a “second shift” before long.

As the law currently stands, grandparents are not entitled to take time off work, either paid or unpaid, to look after their grandchildren. There was talk from government of extending shared parental leave rights to grandparents, but to date there has been no further movement on this plan.

At present only grandparents who are legally responsible for their grandchildren – i.e. through adoption, a residence order or social guardianship order – may qualify for parental leave until the child reaches 18. To be eligible the employee must have been employed by the company for at least 12 months.

Although most grandparents don’t have any right to “grandparental leave” they can, like everyone else, take time off to look after dependents in an emergency or other unforeseen event.   It might be that the childminder is off ill, their grandchild’s school has unexpectedly closed for the day, or their grandson or granddaughter has been taken to hospital.

In such instances, grandparents can request leave to deal with the situation, irrespective of their length of service, and while they aren’t legally obliged to be paid, some employers do choose to pay them.

It is worth repeating that many employees with grandchildren are not exactly old and have several years of employment ahead of them.  You may well have loyal, capable, long-serving members of your team who are not only looking after grandchildren but also caring for infirm elderly parents. It is these employees – usually women in their 50s and 60s – who bear the brunt of caring duties.

Every staff member has the right to ask for flexible working after 26 weeks of employment, and perhaps a change of hours or shift patterns to fit in with school hours would help them.

Could you, for example, allow grandparents to start work an hour later or leave earlier in the afternoon so they can relieve their own children of the school run?  Flexi-time or job-sharing might be another option – or it may be that you could offer reduced hours or part-time working.  Depending on the nature of your business, letting them take a career break is another possibility.

It is in nobody’s interests to have tired, frazzled staff on your team who are spreading themselves too thinly while trying to meet work and family obligations. But, with some adjustments, you may be able to come up with a working arrangement which keeps older workers with years of valuable experience and knowledge, in your business.

Angela Clay

A qualified employment law solicitor and our managing director, Angela has unparalleled legal expertise and decades of experience and knowledge to draw from. She’s a passionate speaker and writer that loves to keep employers updated with upcoming changes to legislation, and is a regular guest speaker on BBC Leicester Radio.