Karen Holden from A City Law Firm looks at the employment rights available to grandparents who provide childcare.
The past month has been dominated by the Jubilee celebrations of the Queen, an iconic working mum and grandparent. The Queen is the nation’s figurehead and head of her family. Like all family matriarchs, she no doubt provides a wealth of support and advice to the younger generations within her family.
Many working mums rely on their mums (and dads) to provide childcare for them whilst they carry out their working day. There are many permutations of this, with some providing complete care and some providing a day a week or after school care. The parents of parents support over seven million working families in the UK.
However, just like the Queen, many grandparents are still working. This can see them juggling their own employment as well as their children’s children’s childcare. What does the status of grandparent then mean in the UK workplace and can they seek employment legislation to assist in supporting their childcare roles?
Currently it seems that grandparents have no right under UK employment law to paid or unpaid leave to spend time with their grandchildren in their capacity as grandparents. Therefore any time off required to cover periods of care will be unpaid and discretionary by the employer if given.
Employees who have worked for their employer for at least 26 weeks can make a statutory request for flexible working arrangements. A grandparent could request flexible working arrangements to enable them to spend time with grandchildren, without the need to be their legal guardian. The employer will review the request in line with business requirements and make a decision on that basis.
Grandparents may have rights to ordinary parental leave in very limited circumstances. The right to ordinary parental leave is exercisable by an employee who has one year’s continuous employment with the employer and has, or expects to have, formal parental responsibility for a child. This is only usually in a case whereby the birth parents do not have parental responsibility as a consequence of adoption or residence order in child arrangements proceedings.
Grandparents have no entitlement to take either paternity leave or adoption leave, despite the Government in 2018 looking to extend the rights on shared parental leave to grandparents, it has not been implemented.
Overall, for working grandparents, the childcare and workplace arrangements can be quite an unsupported juggle.
Aside from the obvious benefit of spending time with their grandchildren, those grandparents who are not employed and are providing childcare may enter into an informal financial arrangement with their children, perhaps for the costs of endless grandchild treat buying to be covered.
However, there is also now a position with the state pension that can be utilised by grandparents giving childcare.
Grandparents providing childcare can apply for national insurance credits for their state pension. This is known as the Specified Adult Childcare Credit. It can be claimed by any person who is under state pension age and looking after a child under the age of 12 by filling in form CA1976. This can then help top up the state pension payable to the grandparent on retirement. It is an acknowledgment that for many families, grandparents do provide a childcare service which can then at least also have a level of recompense if required.
The UK workforce is indebted to many grandparents who provide childcare whilst their children run businesses and carry out employment. Private childcare costs for many can be such a large percentage of their income that an alternative and more personal option which fosters and develops family relationships is often the preferred choice.
Just like the Queen, there are many grandparents still working and providing childcare to the younger generations in their family. Perhaps they are the ultimate example of working mums (and dads), but it is debatable whether UK employment law will shift in the next few years to provide further recognition of that.
*Karen Holden is founder of A City Law Firm. Having been admitted to the roll in 2005. Karen was invited and given freedom of the City in 2019 for her work in Equality as such is part of the Guild of Freeman.