BERLIN - Kristina Schöder, the German Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, would like working German grandparents to have more free time to look after their grandchildren. The Ministry has drafted a law that, among other things, would give working grandparents a general right to a three-year leave from their job for that purpose.
The right to what is being called Grosselternzeit (Grand-parenting Time) would not apply to those who work in companies with fewer than 16 employees, however. The Ministry based its calculations on 300,000 people being eligible, 10% of which would actually take grand-parenting time off.
There are a number of reasons why eligible grandparents would choose not to take the time off, for instance, in the case of grandparents earning too little or living too far away from their grandchildren. According to the Ministry, only one out of three children in Germany has grandparents who are still working and who live nearby.
Until now, taking time off from work to look after grandchildren has only been possible in exceptional cases, for instance, when one or both of the grandchild’s parents are minors.
The new draft law says that grandparents should be able to take up to three years off work, with no interruption to payments into their retirement fund.
Schröder believes that companies will come to realize the economic benefits of Grosselternzeit, which would enable young, well-educated parents to re-enter the labor market more easily after maternity/paternity leave.
The new law would improve on existing legislation by allowing more flexibility. Parents are presently entitled to parental leave to look after their children from birth up to the child’s fourth birthday. The new law would make it possible to take a year off between the child’s third and eighth birthday, and up to 24 months unused time could be carried over to be used any time before the child reaches his or her 14th birthday.
Taking a load off parents
The Ministry has sent the completed draft out for approval and hopes that it will be voted into law during the present legislative period. The Minister’s own party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has approved the project. CDU Secretary General Hermann Gröhe told Süddeutsche Zeitung that Schröder had "the full support of the CDU" and that the new law would be "a win/win situation for all those concerned, if grandparents were to look after their grandchildren more and take some of the burden off the parents." Grosselternzeit would also help foster healthy inter-generational relationships, Gröhe said.
However, according to Süddeutsche Zeitung’s sources, Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) has some reservations about the uninterrupted payment of retirement money that presumably would involve her Ministry’s budget.
The liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) also has reservations and intends to examine the draft more closely, mainly to ascertain what costs it would generate for both the state and employers.
Kristina Schröder began talking about Grosselternzeit in March. In April, it was included in a draft program aimed at strengthening the CDU in rural areas with the comment: "In rural areas, grandparents, other relatives and neighbors often accept the responsibility of looking after children and deserve recognition for it." The document went on to say that, parallel to the already instated three-year parenting time, the CDU would introduce "Grand-parenting Time, so that grandparents could more easily get time off from work for the purpose of looking after their grandchildren."
The 27-page draft has yet to be approved because of issues with other points, but the CDU has further backed the idea of Grand-parenting Time since, in a statement that reads: "We want to develop Grand-parenting Time further. In the future, all grandparents should have the possibility to interrupt or reduce their work hours in order to be able to look after their grandchildren.” Young parents still making their way up the corportate ladder could benefit from having some free time, the statement said.