Under new plans announced by George Osborne, working grandparents will have the legal right to take time off to help care for their grandchildren.

In a statement, the Chancellor argued that grandparents often play a “central role” in caring for their extended family and this move would allow them to lend a helping hand whilst still retaining their position at work.

According to this plan, the current system of shared parental leave will be extended to cover grandparents in addition to the child’s mother and father.

Working mums, dads and grandparents will be able to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of parental leave pay, currently set at £139.58 a week or 90% of average earnings per week, whichever is lower.

The total of 50 weeks of leave will not be extended, but the plan is aimed at giving greater flexibility to families in the first year of a child’s life.

Half of all mothers currently reply on help from grandparents when they return to work.

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Osborne said: “In many families, grandparents play a central role in caring for their grandchildren and helping to keep down the costs of childcare.”

“Increasing numbers of grandparents, however, also want to remain in work themselves. Research shows two million grandparents have either given up a job, reduced their hours or taken time off work to look after their grandchildren.

“Allowing them instead to share leave with their children will keep thousands more in the workplace, which is good for our economy.”

Greater flexibility

The Conservatives hopes that the move will give families greater flexibility during the first year of a child’s life, enabling both parents to return to work faster if this suits their needs.

Mr Osborne claims that this the policy will benefit single mothers in particular. Where previously they were unable to choose to share parental leave, they will now have the option to share their child’s care with a nominated grandparent.

A similar policy appeared in Labour’s woman’s manifesto ahead of the last general election, however the Conservatives deny stealing the policy.

But Mr Osborne claimed the policy for the Conservatives as their party conference began in Manchester.

“This is a modern Conservative policy that backs working families and gives them the freedom to choose what will work best for them,” he said.

“We will work with employers to make sure that we introduce this as simply as possible.

“It’s an opportunity for employers who want to retain older members of their workforce, who might otherwise choose to leave the workforce permanently.”

Administrative headache

Employment minister Priti Patel told Sky News’s Murnaghan programme: “We made it quite clear in the general election and in our manifesto that we were increasing the amount of free childcare from 15 hours to 30 hours for working families … for three to four-year-olds, that builds upon what we did in the last parliament, where we also introduced free childcare for two-year-olds from low-income families.”

Adam Marshall, executive director of the British Chambers of Commerce, was pessimistic amount the latest Tory plans. He said: “The last set of changes hasn’t even bedded in yet and many firms will be astonished that the government has decided to intervene yet again.

“Most employers are sympathetic when parents or grandparents need flexibility to help with caring duties, and many go out of their way to accommodate affected staff.

“But adding new legislation – and increasing the administrative headache and uncertainty businesses already face – is not the way to go.”

Source: Braintree and Witham Times