United Kingdom

Grandparents who help mothers return to work to face conflict as pension age increases

December 2017


It’s not unusual that grandparents are relied on to help mothers get back to work after having children, but the rising pension age means that they too face pressure to continue working, according to a report by the University of Birmingham and highlighted by the BBC.

The report looked at 14,000 UK mothers who had a child in 2000 and a percentage of those found that with the help of grandparents they were able to return to work.

The study findings showed that 26% of mothers returned to part time and full time work, with the help of grandparents. Of these, 36% of single working mothers put their children in their parents’ care, while 32% of those with a partner relied on their parents.

It is the grandparents who facilitate this because of "a competitive job market and expensive childcare options", said the report’s author Dr Shireen Kanji. Yet they themselves could be impacted by more pressure to continue in paid employment as the pension age increases due to the rise in life expectancy.

The State Pension Age (SPA) for women is to be extended to 65 years old by 2018, the same as men and both men and women’s retirement age will rise to age 66 by 2020 and 67 in 2028, under the Conservative plans.

Dr Kanji said: "It is having a causal affect - these women would not be in work if they could not get grandparents' care.

"Unpaid work is hidden but it is fundamental to the way that society functions."

The report's author, Dr Kanji, said: "It is not an easy choice. They may feel a moral obligation to provide this care, but it will have an impact on them."

Sarah Hamilton, senior defined contributions consultant at Aon Employee Benefits, said: “Many families will be impacted by this issue, not only where parents rely on grandparents to care for their grandchildren, but also at the other end of the spectrum where they are caring for aging relatives as well. For many families, cost constraints mean that help from relatives is the only viable option.

Hamilton added: “The difficulty is that for many the State Pension remains a large portion of the income that they will have to live on in retirement, and so retirement before State Pension Age is not practical. Additionally, the uncertainty around SPA adds a further difficulty for individuals who are trying to save adequately for retirement, especially if they need to retire prior to their SPA to be able to care for family members.”

She highlighted a little known point about grandparents who care for their grandchildren and have not yet reached the SPA. She said: “[They] may be entitled to Specified Adult Childcare credits to boost their state pension.”

Grandparents now might not yet be affected by this conflict but Dr Kanji said it would be “an issue” for grandparents in 2020 and beyond.



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