Federal labour minister Kris Peeters has given his partial backing to a call from the families’ union Gezinsbond for working grandparents to be given special leave to care for their grandchildren in certain critical situations. Gezinsbond was celebrating its annual conference this year under the heading of Grandparents. Families with children, the union pointed out, often find themselves in urgent need of child-care, for example when a parent or child is sick. In many cases a grandparent is able to come to the rescue. However many grandparents – particularly with rising retirement ages – are still in employment.
The proposal from Gezinsbond would allow working grandparents up to ten days in a year of social leave in such urgent circumstances, either to stay with a child who is sick at home while parents work, or to take care of the child if a parent is indisposed.
Parents themselves already have the right to ten days social leave for what the law calls “pressing circumstances” such as sick children, partner or parent. Gezinsbond’s proposal would extend that right to grandparents.
Grandparents have a special role to play in family life, the union’s Elke Valgaeren said. “There is not only an emotional bond, but grandparents play an invaluable role in the care of their grandchildren. And they are often able to keep the combination of family and work in balance for their own adult children.”
“Gezinsbond brings up a valid point,” Peeters said. “At present, parents can take social leave to care for a sick child, but grandparents don’t have that option. I’ll be looking to see if the law can be amended.”
In the case of grandparents, his office explained, an employer would have the right to demand, where there was any doubt, some kind of proof that the circumstances were indeed pressing.