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News just in (HT my friend David Goddin) that Santander wants to offer new grandparents paid leave – up to 16 weeks. The context is, of course, changes to legislation announced by the Government in 2015.

I should declare an interest – I will never be a grandparent so there is a subjective element to my instinctive response. Let me try to be objective.

There is nothing wrong in itself with including this in a category of employee benefits along with others. On the other hand why do we choose this specific group as opposed to broadening benefits to support anyone at critical points in their life?

For we already have dynamics in some workplaces which create non-inclusive environments. As an example…..some parents who vociferously argue that they should have first choice on annual leave dates, especially around Christmas, presumably as they believe non-parents don’t have important families as well. An example – someone I know who needs to fly a few hours to see their family at Christmas was told that their need was less important and relevant than the person whose family was effectively just down the road – on the basis that the latter included a young family member.

Companies (and Governments) seem to be in the habit of making decisions on which types of life event to recognise without appreciating that everyone has events which are important to them.

So my very initial thoughts on points to consider if you and your business are thinking of emulating Santander:

  • Is it appropriate for you to decide that becoming a grandparent is more important than other events in employees’ lives?
  • If so how do you justify this decision to others in your business who are equally as valuable?
  • If not perhaps you could be more creative in designing a scheme which offers a certain level of support to every employee when they need it?
  • Do you end up offering this leave to a new grandparent whilst failing to offer similar levels of support and encouragement to someone on the same floor who is already a carer?  Do you even know who is a carer in your organisation? Have you understood the massive challenge it entails to care for someone and hold down a job?
  • Are you requiring someone who has just been bereaved to return to work after a few days whilst offering a quarter of a year off to someone simply because their children have become parents?
  • Or how’s about the employee who is living with cancer and whose manager won’t relax their performance criteria – whilst a new grandparent is made this award?

To repeat, would it not be better for employees to decide what is important for them in their lives as opposed to a committee somewhere making those decisions for them? Is that not social conditioning? Is this how we want our companies to be – excluding some while rewarding others?