Government wrong to extend shared parental leave to grandparents

7 October 2015

Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement that the Government will extend shared parental leave and pay to grandparents will undermine gender equality by reducing the likelihood of fathers taking the leave, the Fatherhood Institute has said.

Under current SPL arrangements, introduced in April 2015, eligible mothers can transfer up to 50 weeks’ maternity leave to their partners. Mr Osborne wants to broaden this to allow them to transfer leave to grandparents – in most cases, grandmothers.

“The clue is in the name,” says Adrienne Burgess, joint chief executive of the Fatherhood Institute. “Shared parental leave should be for parents. By suggesting a widening of the policy to grandparents (for which read grandmothers), and justifying this on the grounds that ‘more than half of mothers rely on grandparents for childcare when they return to work’, Mr Osborne is placing all the responsibility for organising childcare on mothers’ shoulders….and undermining the much-needed potential of the SPL policy to provide space for fathers to play a more equal role in caregiving in the precious early months of their children’s lives.

“SPL is far from perfect as a policy, but we need to give it time to ‘bed down’ and for employers to get to grips with their vital role in supporting mums and dads to share it more equitably – to the benefit of both parents’ careers, and their children’s wellbeing.”

A substantial longitudinal study has found better socio-emotional outcomes for both boys and girls who had, as toddlers, experienced some solo-care from their fathers (Washbrook, 2007*).  The same benefits were not found from grandparental care.


*Washbrook, E, 2007: Fathers, Childcare and Children’s Readiness to Learn, CMPO, University of Bristol. Available online at: Last accessed 7 October 2015.

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