Supermarket chain Asda, subsidiary of US retailer Wal-Mart and one of Britain's largest employers, has revealed plans for a new scheme to make new grandparents entitled to seven days leave when a baby is born.

A pioneer in employee motivation and flexible work practises, Asda already allows parents to stop working for short times during the school holidays and instituted a half-day off policy on children's first day of school. It was encouraged to extend this practise when it was revealed that nearly 14,000 older workers are forced to dip into their annual holiday in order to assist their families when a grandchild is born.

The scheme, being pioneered by supermarket chain Asda, is available to all, regardless of job hours or time spent with the company, and can even be followed up by three months unpaid leave so grandparents can help their children adjust. Head of employee relations, Marie Gill, explained: "We're looking for ways to help our colleagues balance the commitments of home and work life. Many are grandparents and, as such, have childcare responsibilities."

The National Family and Parenting Institute was also positive about the new scheme, although Ruth Lea, who represents British business from the Institute of Directors, is sceptical about the effect it will have on childless employees: "There is evidence suggesting that people who have no children are getting a tired of the time parents take off to look after their children. They are asking 'What do we get?'"

Lea also points to the fact that it is smaller companies that will feel the negative effects of such policies: "It is only large companies that can contemplate this, small companies can't have people taking time off. They won't be able to offer those incentives."