Harriet Harman

Labour Member of Parliament for Camberwell & Peckham

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Labour launches Women’s Manifesto – with flexible leave option for working grandparents

Working grandparents could share parents’ unpaid parental leave under a consultation to be launched today (Wednesday) by Harriet Harman, Labour’s Deputy Leader.

The move would allow a grandparent to take time off work to help look after a grandchild without fear of losing their job, and is further evidence of Labour’s commitment to support working families.

Labour’s Women’s Manifesto, launched today in London, recognises the vital role that grandparents play in looking after their grandchildren when parents are at work.

More than half of all mothers rely on grandparents for childcare when they first go back to work after maternity leave, while two-thirds of grandparents with grandchildren aged under 16 provide some childcare (i).

Recent polling by YouGov showed that 84 per cent of British women aged 50-70 thought looking after grandchildren on a regular basis has a positive impact (ii).

However public policy hasn’t kept up with the reality of families’ lives:

With 1.9 million grandparents giving up a job, reducing their hours, or taking time off work to look after their grandchildren[iii].

To help grandparents help their families and stay in their jobs, Labour will consult on what flexibilities would make the system work better for families and businesses given changing patterns of care, including the option of allowing grandparents who want to be more involved in caring for their grandchildren to share in parents’ unpaid parental leave.

Harriet Harman, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party said:

“There have been many ways in which family life has changed, but public policy remains rooted in the past. This was evident in conversations I had across the country as part of the work of the Older Women’s Commission.

“Labour has a better plan for working families. The sharing of parental leave with grandparents could give families more flexibility by recognising the important role that grandparents play.”

Chuka Umunna, Shadow Secretary of State for business said

“Many companies recognise the benefits of flexible working to retain valued employees with caring responsibilities, and some are already recognising the pressures on grandparents. But the system is outdated. We need to look at how to make parental leave more flexible so that it works better for families and businesses.”



Notes to Editors

Parental Leave

Currently parents can claim 18 weeks unpaid parental leave, or four weeks in any given year, for each child and adopted child, up to their 18th birthday [iv]. The stated aim of this unpaid leave is to support family life, while protecting parents’ employment rights. But at the moment you have to be a parent or to have legal parental responsibility to access this.

A Better Plan for Women’s Equality:

Today’s manifesto outlines Labour’s substantial offer to women and hardworking families:

·         Increasing the minimum wage to more than £8 by October 2019.

·         Tackling the gender pay gap with new pay transparency rules for all large employers.

·         Extending free childcare from 15 to 25 hours a week for working parents of three and four-year-olds.

·         Guaranteed access for parents of primary-age children to 8am-6pm wraparound childcare through primary schools.

·         Protecting the Sure Start budget and opening up an additional 50,000 childcare places.

·         Doubling paid paternity leave, and increasing pay to the equivalent of a full weeks work at the National Minimum Wage so that more families can take up their entitlements.

·         Supporting healthy relationships by introducing age-appropriate compulsory sex and relationship education.

·         Tackle violence against women and girls by appointing a new commissioner to enforce national standards on tackling domestic and sexual abuse, strengthening the law and providing more stable central funding for women’s refuges and Rape Crisis Centres.

[i] Wellard (2011) Doing it all? Grandparents, childcare and employment: An analysis of British Social Attitudes Survey Data from 1998 and 2009, London: Grandparents Plus

[ii] YouGov polling Older Women’s Commission. figure from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1,089 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 5th - 11th February 2015.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB women aged 50-70.

[iii] Family and Childcare Trust, Grandparents Plus and Save the Children, Time to Care: Generation generosity under pressure

[IV] https://www.gov.uk/parental-leave/overview

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