While America is still fighting the battle to make parental leave accessible for everyone, one country in Europe is moving on to grandparents. DNA, a teleoperator in Finland, is trying out a system of paid leave for any employee who becomes a grandparent and a woman named Maarit Jakobsson was the first employee to take advantage of the program. Jakobsson took a week of leave earlier this summer after the birth of her ninth grandchild and loved getting to spend quality time with her family. This is still a new program and it isn’t clear if it will last, but if it proves to be a success, could the future of paid family include grandparents?
The concept of someone getting time off for becoming a grandparent might seem foreign to us, but Finland is extremely progressive when it comes to family and paid leave. The Finnish government already has an extremely generous parental policy in place, which allows both mothers and fathers to take a significant amount of paid time off. This is in stark contrast with America, which is one of the few developed countries to not offer paid parental leave for its citizens.
But that doesn’t mean that grandparent leave does not make sense for the 50 states. The average American becomes a grandparent at age 54, which is a full 11 years away from the average retirement age of 65. Of course, a large number of Americans are expected to work well past 65. Giving employees a chance to spend time with their family and alleviate some of the stress of new parents would be hard for anyone to turn down.
The issue, as always, comes down to money, because surely instituting paid grandparent leave would cost companies a fortune in work lost, right? Turns out, that may not be the case. Despite what many think, parental leave doesn’t actually cost companies that much. Especially with these leaves being only a week long, it is likely costs would be minimal and ultimately outweighed by long term positives. We still have a long way to go, but hopefully some day all American grandparents can follow in Maarit Jakobsson’s footsteps and take some much-needed leave.