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“Granny Leave”: Gendering childcare assumptions across the lifespan?

by on April 16, 2015

Back to the election (hard to ecape from) and a look at an age at work related announcement from Labour (reported here in the Daily Mail) that they would introduce a new legal right to ‘granny leave’. This would allow working grandparents to take time off – up to four unpaid weeks per year – to help care for their grandchildren.

The proposed scheme is part of Labour’s ‘women’s manifesto’ (do women need their own manifesto?) and would require a change in the law to take effect. The reported rationale is that currently over 50% of mothers rely on grandparents for childcare when they first go back to work after maternity leave, and two-thirds of grandparents with grandchildren aged under 16 provide some childcare.

The article cites research (unspecified) suggesting that nearly 2 million grandparents give up jobs, reduce working hours, or take time off work to look after their grandchildren. It anticipates a backlash from some business leaders, who will have to bear the costs of absences. A bit like the reaction to the Tory proposal of allowing staff to have 3 days unpaid leave a year to ‘volunteer’.

Moreover, although the references are to grandparents (ungendered), the announcement of this as part of Labour’s women’s manifesto frames childcare as a women’s issue. This is reinforced in this piece by positioning ‘mothers’ as being reliant on grandparents for childcare in the first place (aren’t men reliant too?) and by the assumption of which gender of grandparent is going to be taking time off (‘grannies’ as the Daily Mail headline helpfully points out). This rather depressingly perpetuates the assumptions and effects of parenthood on women’s working lives across the lifespan to all age groups.

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