Grandparents Get Their Version of Parental Leave

Grandparents Get Their Version of Parental Leave

Tech News

So-called “grandternity” leave is rare. Tech company Cisco, consulting firm Mercer and hiring platform HireVue are among the handful companies that offer it. The time off can range from a day to a couple of weeks.

The new form of leave—and other expanding benefits aimed at mid- and late-career employees, such as menopause time off—signal that more employers need older workers. In a tight labor market where there are more than 10 million open jobs, many firms still struggle to keep their most experienced talent from walking out the door while also trying to recruit more in this cohort, which is prized for its historical knowledge and old fashioned work ethic.

“Companies are trying to figure out what to do with older workers because we’ve never had this many,” said Bradley Schurman, chief executive of The Super Age, a demographic strategy firm that uses age data to help organizations retain and attract talent.

Saga, a U.K. company that sells vacations, insurance and other products aimed at people ages 50 and over, recently rolled out five days of paid grandternity leave to its 2,500 employees. So far 32 have taken it.

“The view that everybody in this age group is retired simply isn’t the case,” Roisin Mackenzie, chief people officer, said of working grandparents.

The idea came up in 2021 when the company reviewed its benefits through the lens of its customers, Mackenzie said. Saga also started letting grandchildren of its workers attend its on-site day cares and is starting to offer part-time opportunities for people who want to keep working a less intense schedule.

Scott Merry, a 47-year-old IT specialist with Saga in Kent, England, took a week of grandternity leave in February when his second grandchild was born to help care for his 4-year-old grandson, Elliot. Merry called the babysitting gig a full-time job, however short, because his grandson has the kind of toddler energy that revs up from the moment he wakes.

“It was just wonderful,” he said of the family bonding time. “He’s got me wrapped around his finger.”

Merry’s son, Lewis Merry, said it was a huge relief to have his father there, because his partner had to stay in the hospital longer than originally anticipated.

“We weren’t sure what we were going to do about child care,” the younger Merry said.

In the U.S., employees ages 50-plus make up more than a third of the workforce.

“We don’t see that declining any time soon,” said Carly Roszkowski, AARP’s vice president of financial resilience. The segment of the labor force made up of people ages 75 or older is expected to nearly double over the next decade, according to federal projections.

Within months of joining hiring platform company HireVue as director of rewards, Dallin Johns discovered he would soon be a first-time grandparent. When he shared the news with his team, they filled him in on the firm’s weeklong grandternity leave policy.

“It was the first I’d ever heard of it, and I work in benefits,” Johns said.

Since Johns, 50, lives near Salt Lake City, and his son’s family is five hours away in Boise, Idaho, he decided to wait until his granddaughter, Makiah, was out of the newborn stage to take his week off.

In April, the extended family rented a house on the Oregon coast for a week of beach time. When everybody else went on a crabbing boat, Johns stayed behind with Makiah, feeding her and soothing her when she cried.

“It’s a trip I’ll never forget and a large part of my memories were of holding Makiah in my arms,” he said.

HireVue’s grandternity leave dates back to 2016 when the founder’s executive assistant became a grandmother and wanted to take time off to help her daughter and bond with the new baby. The company formalized the benefit as a way to attract and retain a more diverse workforce, said Natalie Dopp, HireVue’s chief people officer.

In 2017, when Cisco revamped its benefits around “moments that matter,” the company began offering three days of paid time off for grandparents, said Ted Kezios, senior vice president of people care. Nearly 30% of Cisco’s benefits-eligible employees in the U.S. are 50 and older; nearly 800 employees have used the benefit in the past 2½ years.

Legalite, a Melbourne, Australia-based law firm, introduced two weeks of paid grandternity leave this spring, despite the 10-person staff ranging in age from 23 to 38. Marianne Marchesi, the firm’s managing partner, said she hopes the benefit will be a draw for potential hires who are older, and noted how her in-laws were instrumental in helping with the child’s care.

“When people come to work here, we want them to stay as long as possible and would love to see people through the different stages of their life,” she said.

At global consulting firm Mercer’s Australia and New Zealand offices, 30% of its workforce is at least 50 years old. Mercer introduced one day of paid grandparent leave in that region last September, said Gaye Morris, chief people and culture officer for Mercer in Australia and New Zealand. Mercer is considering offering paid grandparent leave more widely.

Leanne Delgado, a 56-year-old team lead with Mercer in Melbourne, took her paid time off when her fifth grandchild, Mackenzie, was born in November. Delgado and her husband drove to the hospital to relieve her stepdaughter’s partner from sleeping on the couch in the hospital room. Her stepdaughter, Bethany Delgado, said she had complications during labor, making it difficult to care for Mackenzie for the first few days.

“Leanne having access to this type of leave, rather than eating into her annual or personal leave, made us feel less guilty about accepting her help,” the younger Delgado said.

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