Employers may struggle to deal with the influx of grandparents expected to claim shared parental leave, Michael Briggs, a senior associate at law firm Shoosmiths, writes in an article for The Charted Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Due to the aging workforce, Briggs writes, the number of grandparents expected to claim will be ‘significant’. “Employers will need to keep a close eye on the consultation that will follow and the development of the government’s proposals generally in this area,” Briggs advises.

Briggs quotes research provided by the Trade Union Conference (TUC) that suggests that some 7 million grandparents in the UK currently provide regular care for their grandchildren. This is done to ensure that their own children can return to work quicker than they would be able to otherwise. Two million of these grandparents have given up work in order to do this or have cut back their own working hours.

A consultation process on the new policy, announced by Chancellor George Osborne at the Autumn Conservative Party Conference, will take place during the first half of 2016 and the policy will be brought into effect by 2018. The scheme is part of a plan to make childcare more flexible for parents during the first year of a newborn’s life.

It is expected that working grandparents will be able to share up to 37 weeks of shared parental leave and up to 37 weeks of statutory shared parental pay, which is currently set at £139.58 per week. “Some employers may, of course, have enhanced provisions for shared parental pay, as they do with maternity pay, so to take the same approach with this new entitlement would add further costs,” Briggs writes.

In addition to the proposed extension, Briggs warns, an increasingly older workforce means that employers are likely to face a new wave of requests for flexible working arrangements.”Employers will need to be ready to adapt in the area of parental leave and pay, Briggs concludes.