Many businesses have just about got a handle on their new responsibilities surrounding shared parental leave. So the recent announcement from David Cameron indicating that he may in fact look at Labour’s proposals for allowing grandparents to share up to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave will no doubt leave some employers feeling overwhelmed about what the future holds.
It’s a debate though that many will welcome. Our workforces are getting older, so it’s inevitable that grandparents will be eager to pursue the opportunity to balance their working days with their desire to play an important role in family life.
The current flexible working provisions do act as something of a starting point here, so if you’re already compliant in this area, it’s quite probable that you’re already making positive steps towards giving your staff the type of flexibility they desire, and are entitled to.
Since June last year, all staff who have been with an organisation for more than 26 continuous weeks have had the right to request flexible working arrangements. What this involves in practical terms can vary widely, but examples include working from home, flexi-time, part-time hours, term-time working, and so on.
It’s likely that many grandparents have already used this right to ensure that they can spend time with their grandchildren, and play an active role in their care.
Unfortunately though, it’s also quite possible that some grandparents have been left disappointed. Employers are not obliged to fulfill requests for flexible working, and can refuse for a number of reasons, for example if they feel that the costs involved will be too high, or if it would be difficult to manage operational requirements.
It could also be argued that the existing provisions don’t really meet the individual and specific needs of grandparents. As is often the case when it comes to the tricky business of managing people, a one-size-fits-all approach rarely delivers the best possible outcome. A potential problem that could occur if grandparents make use of their right to request flexible working is that their working patterns may be permanently changed.
It should be noted that no concrete plans for new legislation around grandparental leave have been rolled out. It is however something that employers should keep up to date with. If anything changes or there are any developments in the area, we’ll be sure to let you know. Stay tuned for updates as they’re available.