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Grandparents who still work should have the right to unpaid leave if they provide regular childcare for their grandchildren, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has said.
A poll revealed millions of grandparents are providing informal childcare and the majority of both grandparents and parents would welcome the introduction of more unpaid leave rights for grandparents to allow them to work and carry out childcare roles.
The YouGov poll by TUC revealed nearly seven million grandparents regularly care for their grandchildren aged under 16 and of these, working grandparents were more likely to carry out this role than retired grandparents.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The informal childcare that millions of grandparents regularly provide is one of the most important and unheralded forms of care in Britain today.”
Half of grandparents and 45 per cent of parents agreed the main reason for grandparents taking on childcare responsibilities was to allow parents to work.
Ms O’Grady continued: “The childcare provided by grandparents allows mums and dads to work, saves them money on nursery and childminder fees, and creates a special bond across different generations in a family.
“But with more people than ever before working into their late 60s, millions of grandparents are selflessly taking on childcare responsibilities for a second time while they still work. Many businesses have yet to keep up with this trend and thousands of grandparents who want to look after their grandkids are prevented from doing so.
“It’s important that public policy catches up with the needs of working grandparents and their families. A new right to unpaid leave would be a great way to get more working grandparents involved in childcare, and at very little cost to an employer.”
With average weekly wages of £468 for people in their 30s higher than those in their 50s (£427.80 ) and 60s (£320.90) TUC have claimed families may feel an older family member providing childcare makes more financial sense and minimise childcare costs.
Although grandparents are currently allowed a small amount of unpaid leave for childcare emergencies, TUC want this to be extended to make it more accessible for grandparents.
Sam Smethers, chief executive of Grandparents Plus, a charity working to champion the rights of extended family members who care for children, added: “Family life is changing and it’s time that government and employers caught up. Grandparents are picking up the strain that families are under and providing an increasing amount of childcare. But they are under pressure themselves, working longer and struggling to combine paid work with caring.
“We risk a childcare gap emerging – with parents paying the price – if grandparents cannot afford to reduce their hours or can’t get the flexibility they need. The solution is a period of grandparental leave and an investment in formal childcare.”