Under plans announced by George Osborne at the Conservative Party Conference last week, paid Shared Parental Leave (SPL) will be extended to working grandparents.

If the plans are implemented, the SPL system, which was introduced earlier this year and allows parents to share leave and statutory parental pay during the child’s first year, will also be available to the child’s grandparents. The cynic in me wonders whether this will make the (already complex) system even more complicated for employers, but the government argues that it will allow parents to return to work more quickly after having a baby, thereby reducing the strain on employers.

The rationale behind the proposal is that “more than half of mothers rely on grandparents for childcare when they first return to work after having a baby” and “research shows that over two million grandparents have either given up a job, reduced their hours or taken time off work to look after their grandchildren.”  The Conservatives say that the policy will benefit single mothers who may not have the option of sharing leave with a partner; and it will keep thousands more in the workplace, thereby improving the economy.

It remains to be seen whether the proposals will actually be implemented, but the government intends to commence consultations during the first half of 2016, with a view to introducing the changes by 2018.  Even if this does not happen, Labour have proposed a similar policy in their Manifesto for Women, so a change of Government at the next General Election may not defeat the proposed extension of the current scheme.

For the time being, employers are advised to ensure that they have a Shared Parental Leave Policy in place to deal with SPL requests, and to ensure that their existing Maternity and Paternity Policies are amended to reflect the current regime. Template policies can be found on the full QCS Management System. Any policy changes should be communicated to employees.

Employers are also advised to ensure that managers receive training in relation to SPL, so that they are able to deal with any queries or SPL requests received from employees.