Family leave for councillors proposed

Monday October 5th 2020

Midlothian Council

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Family leave for councillors who become parents would make public office more accessible and encourage them to remain in post, according to a new report.

Midlothian Council is being asked to adopt new COSLA guidelines which allow elected members who become parents to take the same time off, which employees are offered.

A report to council next week points out that councillors are not entitled to the same time off and urges members to accept the new guidelines.

It says: “Whilst there is no legal right to family leave of any kind for people in elected public office, the objective of this guidance is to ensure that insofar as is possible, elected members can take appropriate leave at the time of birth or adoption, that both parents are able to take leave, and that reasonable and adequate arrangements are in place to provide cover during any period of leave taken.”

The report by chief officer Gary Fairley, says:

“Improved provision for new parents will contribute towards increasing the diversity of experience, age and background of local authority councillors and making public office more accessible to individuals who might otherwise feel excluded from it.

“This guidance should in turn encourage the retention of councillors, particularly women, and making public office more accessible to individuals who might otherwise feel excluded from it.”

The new guidelines include allowing members who give birth up to six months maternity leave from 28 days before their due date or from the date of birth if a baby arrives prematurely.

Members will also be entitled to take a maximum of two weeks paternity leave if they are the biological father or nominated carer of their partner/spouse following the birth of their child or children.

Where both parents are members leave may be shared up to a maximum of 26 weeks and similar arrangements are available for those adopting a child through an approved adoption agency.

The move will be welcomed by Midlothian Councillor Kelly Parry, who is COSLA’s (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) Community Wellbeing Spokesperson and who has been a vocal advocate for these changes across Scotland.

She said: “Having become a parent whilst in elected office, I believe these legislative changes and Family Leave Guidance have the potential to remove structural and cultural barriers as well as address some of the practical challenges that Councillors previously faced when entering parenthood.

“I have campaigned to introduce these types of changes in my own council, and to see these roll out across the country with supporting legislation is fantastic.”

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