From here to grandternity

Written by Leigh Reinhold for Seniors Life Insurance.               

When Leanne Delgado became a grandmother for the fifth time, she was more than happy to use her new company entitlement of ‘grandternity leave’ to enjoy a day bonding with her newest family member.

“I felt grateful I got to spend the day with my grandchild fully paid, and proud to work for a company that is progressive and thoughtful,” Leanne, 56, tells DARE.

With employers seeking new ways to attract and keep older valued staff like Leanne, a small but growing number of workplaces are offering employees grandternity leave – parental leave for grandparents – as a job perk.

“Australia’s unemployment rate is at historic lows and there is an incredibly tight applicant market,” explains Natasha Hawker, managing director of Sydney recruitment firm Employee Matters.

Be creative!

“The vast majority of employers are looking for new hires and they need to be looking at creative ways to retain talent. For employees, grandternity leave can form part of their Employee Value Proposition [the unique set of benefits an employee receives in exchange for their skills] – in other words, what’s in it for me?” she says.

“For employers, it can reduce unnecessary attrition and even attract employees to work for the longer term, reducing costs and retaining knowledge capital. Offering more options around the types of leave – based on stage of life – gives employees a better overall employee experience, no matter what stage of their life they’re at.”

While the measure is still a new concept in workplace policy, companies like Cisco and HireVue in the US and Saga in the UK have implemented grandparent leave. In Australia, the workforce participation rate for people aged 55-64 rose sharply from 45% in 1995 to 69% in 2023, according to the Australian HR Institute, although it estimates at present only about 8% of companies offer grandparents leave. However, some HR departments in Australia are starting to tweak their parental policies to include the benefit.

“I was very excited and impressed that my employer would take this initiative, recognising the importance of our families and by extension demonstrating they are invested in our wellbeing,” says Leanne, who works as a team leader at consulting firm Mercer in Melbourne. “I would never have predicted grandternity leave would be available to me, but as a concept it makes absolute sense. Our grandchildren are just as precious to us as our children.”

Aim for balance

Gaye Morris, the people and culture leader at Mercer who helped implement the policy, explains: “How people choose to achieve greater balance across work and family life is always evolving. Our job is to make sure we’re fostering an inclusive and flexible environment to not only create a great place to work, but to retain top talent.

“Older/longstanding employees can add a lot of value through their expertise and experience. We don’t want to lose that.”

CEO of the Australian HR Institute, Sarah McCann-Bartlett, says encouraging participation and retention of older workers is beneficial for the country as well as individual businesses. “Organisations stand to benefit from a multi-generational workforce in many ways through harnessing the strengths of different age groups,” she says.

“If employers and governments can maximise the potential of older workers as part of an age-diverse workforce, this could help drive more diverse workplaces, reduce employee shortages and strengthen Australia’s economic performance.”

At law firm Legalite in Melbourne, all employees are offered generous grandternity leave options. Employees who are both grandparents and primary carers for their grandchildren are offered the same paid parental leave as any other employee. While grandparents who aren’t primary carers are offered two weeks of paid grandternity leave.

“We understand how special welcoming a new family member is for all parents and carers, including grandparents,” explains managing principal Marianne Marchesi.

“By introducing this generous entitlement for grandparents, Legalite is supporting diversity in caring arrangements, making work more accessible, and valuing grandparents for their contribution to raising their grandchildren, but also to the workplace. We believe this plays a role in changing our community for the better.”

Patricia Sparrow, CEO of COTA, the charity for older Australians, believes grandparent leave is a clever incentive to retain older workers. “Too often systemic ageism forces people out of the workforce and into retirement earlier than they should, which is bad for everyone because workers of all ages miss out on the skill sharing and breadth of knowledge, experience and enthusiasm that comes with having age diverse workplaces,” she says.

“We should be doing everything possible to keep those older workers who want to stay in the workforce. If things like grandternity leave work, that’s fantastic. Grandparents often assist in order to allow their children to return back to work, but it’s about more than that. Giving grandparents time with their grandchildren to develop and strengthen those important bonds is also crucial.”

How to negotiate grandternity leave

By Natasha Hawker

1. Be a great performer who your boss and your company want to retain.

2. Do your research and know what the benefits are to your business around building a great Employee Value Proposition.

3. Schedule a meeting with your manager to discuss the benefits around retaining older workers. 

4. To help with nerves, script the meeting and practise. Prepare responses to potential objections.

5. Encourage your fellow workers to ask your employer to offer an Employee Value Proposition that is beneficial to all ages.

Another way to look after your grandchildren is by considering protecting them financially should something happen to you. Seniors Life Insurance could help provide you and your family that financial protection.