UK grandparents 'are balancing jobs and vital childcare'

The important role of grandparents in UK childcare and the workplace has been highlighted in a new report.

Grandparents are increasingly picking up on childcare duties so parents can go to work and they are also often balancing childcare duties with paid employment, the study by Grandparents Plus reveals.

British grandparents are almost twice as likely as their counterparts in mainland Europe to be in paid work, according to the figures, with almost one in four (23%) British grandparents aged over 50 working compared to an average of one in seven across 11 other European countries.

The figures show that around two thirds (63%) of grandparents in Britain provide essential childcare - with one in five (19%) providing at least 10 hours a week overall.

Sam Smethers, chief executive of Grandparents Plus, said the UK faces a clear choice in its approach to balancing childcare and employment.

"If we want grandmothers to stay in work longer - and we are told that our ageing population demands that they have to - we need to invest in affordable, universal formal childcare provision or see more mums leaving the labour market," the expert said.

For the time being though, Smethers suggests it should be made easier for grandparents to stay in work and also provide childcare, which in turn will make it more feasible for mothers to stay in paid work too.

"This means providing opportunities to work flexibly, provide paid leave when they have to take on full-time caring duties and making parental leave available for grandparents who are in work, as happens in some other European countries," the chief executive explained.

Grandparents face a uniquely challenging situation, according to the report, as they are now expected to stay in paid employment until later in life while at the same time pitching in with vital childcare.

Researchers from the Institute for Gerontology at King's College London carried out the study on behalf of Grandparents Plus in partnership with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Beth Johnson Foundation.

Copyright Press Association 2013