Parental leave privileges extended to councillors

A policy guaranteeing parental leave for county councillors in Northumberland has been approved.

By James Harrison
Friday, 3rd September 2021, 9:00 am
Updated Friday, 3rd September 2021, 12:00 pm
Northumberland County Councillors now have the same rights as council employees when it comes to parental leave.
Northumberland County Councillors now have the same rights as council employees when it comes to parental leave.

The move aims to drag working practices “into the 21st Century” and the brains behind the new scheme say it will mean councillors have the same rights as local authority employees.

But they also hope it could pave the way for more women and young people to enter local politics.

“[The motion] is about diversity and ensuring that anyone of any sex or age, whether through adoption, birth or pregnancy, aren’t prevented from being a county councillor,” said Scott Dickinson, leader of the county council’s Labour opposition group.

“It’s about making it equal for any county councillor of working age to come forward to represent their community.

“And it will allow them to know there is a policy in place which 40 other councils have adopted which allows them to function and have leave periods as any other employee would receive.”

Cllr Dickinson had planned to present the motion calling for the policy to July’s meeting of the full council, but agreed to delay until September to ensure it would achieve cross-party political support.

Several local authorities in the North East have already approved parental leave policies for their councillors, in an attempt to make standing for election more attractive to a wider portion of society.

Figures from the Fawcett Society suggest barely a third of local authority councillors in England are women.

One person not in favour of the initiative however is Liberal Democrat county councillor Jeff Reid, who branded the move “Labour nonsense”.

He said: “In over 30 years recruiting candidates to stand in local elections. I can honestly say no one has ever asked me about parental leave.

”It has never been an issue, we’re not employees, we don’t have rights or terms and conditions.

“[County councillors] have the right not to attend for six months anyway.

“You don’t need to do this – all you need to do is not turn up.”

Despite Cllr Reid’s opposition however, the policy, which will give any councillor an entitlement to a period of leave after a birth or adoption in their family, was approved by a margin of 57 in favour and just two against.