While innovative benefits such as so-called ‘grandternity’ leave can support employee retention efforts, they’re best implemented through a diversity, equity and inclusion approach that includes similar programs for a wide range of employees, says Sandra Ventin, an associate vice-president at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

“I think [‘grandternity’] has some cachet and it obviously leads to good conversations. But in the spirit of [DEI], I think employers should be more inclusive [with their leave policies]. For example, if somebody gets a new pet, why couldn’t they have time off to integrate their pet [into their household] when they have to sleep on the couch for two weeks? Or what about someone who will never have children of their own — why would they be excluded from these potential [leave] opportunities?”

Cisco Systems Inc. and hiring platform HireVue Inc. are among the companies already offering paid leave for new grandparents. While this benefit is still relatively rare, it may increase in popularity as Canadians continue to work later in life. According to a new Statistics Canada report, in June 2023, just a fifth (21.8 per cent) of Canadians aged 55 to 59 reported they were either completely or partially retired, while fewer than half (44.5 per cent) of Canadians aged 60 to 64 said they’ve retired.

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Since few workers can afford to take an extended unpaid leave, paid leave such as the ‘grandternity’ concept may become increasingly popular, says Ventin. This form of leave is also in line with the increasing expansion of benefits to older workers.

“A trend that we’ve been seeing for many years now is the [extension of the] termination age for the medical and dental components of benefits programs. . . . It’s becoming increasingly more popular to extend out at least some of the benefits to an age that’s more inclusive. . . . [Age] 65 is generally the hard and fast line for long-term disability, but there are some insurers that would consider a termination age [for LTD benefits] beyond age 65.”

She notes ‘grandternity’ leave may help employers retain skilled and knowledgeable employees amid a challenging labour market. “[Older workers may say], ‘Maybe I don’t retire yet because all I really need is a few months off to recharge and then maybe still support my organization,’ with all of that subject matter knowledge not going out the door.

“Employers just have to be thoughtful that in doing the right thing [to support older workers] or to be positively perceived, they have to make sure they have equity front and centre.”

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