A YouGov poll, published as part of the union’s Age Immaterial investigation into women over 50 in the workplace, has found that nearly seven million grandparents (58 per cent) provide regular childcare for their grandchildren aged under 16.
Working grandparents are more likely (63 per cent) to look after their grandchildren than retired grandparents (55 per cent), according to the research.
Currently, grandparents in employment can only request short periods of unpaid leave in an emergency.
With the Children and Families Bill reaching the final report stages in the House of Lords this week, general secretary of the TUC Frances O’Grady pointed to the fact that a record number of people are now working into their late 60s to highlight the need for a change in legislation.
‘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,’ she said.
The most popular reason for grandparents taking on childcare duties, cited by 50 per cent of respondents, was to allow the child’s parents to work.
With the average weekly wage higher for people in their 30s (£468) than for those their 50s (£427.80) and 60s (£320.90), some families may feel it makes financial sense for a grandparent to reduce their hours and provide informal care, rather than or in addition to a parent, the TUC suggested.
Chief executive of Grandparents Plus Sam Smethers said, ‘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.’