The extension of Shared Parental Leave to grandparents and tax-free childcare are two of the main policy changes relating to working parents which are expected to be debated in 2017.
The Government is expected to consult on extending Shared Parental Leave to grandparents in 2017, with a view to implementation by 2018. The aim is to recognise the role grandparents play in providing childcare. However, critics say it could dilute the main purpose of SPL – to encourage dads to share care more equally with mums.
The consultation is expected to also cover options for streamlining the Shared Parental Leave and Pay system, including simplifying the eligibility requirements and notification system.
Also expected in 2017 is the implementation of the tax-free childcare scheme under which working families will be able to claim 20% of qualifying childcare costs for children under five years (and children with disabilities under seven years) – in each case up to a cap of £2,000 per child, per year.
The scheme will be available for all families in which parents in the household are earning £50+ per week. There are exceptions, for instance, if one family member is an additional rate tax payer, the family won’t be eligible.
This will be complemented by plans to double the number of hours of free childcare available to three and four year olds which is currently being piloted. A report on the pilots is expected to be published in July. Childcare campaigners are concerned that the free childcare will not be properly funded, meaning some nurseries will not be able to afford to provide it, will have to charge for extras or raise costs for parents of younger children.
Also coming this year is the first obligation for larger companies to publish data on the gender pay gap.