The government has now announced that it will extend shared parental leave and pay to "working" grandparents. The aim is to have legislation in place in 2018; the government will consult on the details in the first half of next year.

If the statistics quoted in the government's press release are anything to go by, this could have a significant take up:

  • more than half of mothers rely on grandparents for childcare when they first go back to work after maternity leave  
  • over 60 per cent of working grandparents with grandchildren aged under 16 provide some childcare  
  • nearly two million grandparents have given up work, reduced their hours or have taken time off work to help with 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 felt that they were not able to ask.

As yet this is just an announcement of a policy decision – consultation will follow in the first half of next year.

Working grandparents, along with all other employees with 26 weeks' service, have since 2014 had the right to request to work flexibly, a request that can be refused only for one of a number of specific reasons. It is also possible that refusals of requests for flexible working from grandparents may, if similar applications from parents are treated more favourably, potentially give rise to age discrimination claims.