Maternity Policy for Councillors
- Meeting of Policy Development and Review Committee, Thursday, 26 November 2020 7.00 pm, NEW (Item 285.)
The Committee is asked to consider a Maternity Policy for Councillors.
Report added 25 November 2020.
The Deputy Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing introduced the report which proposed the inclusion of some additional paragraphs in the Members’ Allowances Scheme within the constitution to clarify the provision of parental, adoption and sickness leave for councillors. The Deputy Cabinet Member explained that the paper followed-on from one presented to Council in September 2019 where it was resolved to actively work towards improving equality and diversity, and to improve accessibility to Local Government to under-represented groups. She said the objective for the additional paragraphs was to ensure that Members could take appropriate leave when required. The Deputy Cabinet Member stated that currently 8% of councils in the country had constitutional commitments to parental leave. She highlighted the four additional proposed paragraphs for inclusion in the constitution and welcomed questions from the committee.
In the debate that followed, Members raised the following points:
· Supported the initiative;
· it was important to get the wording right;
· suggested that extra wording ‘as long as they were still a councillor’ be added to paragraph two of the proposed addition;
· suggested the period of six months be extended, if the birth was earlier than expected;
· considered it was appropriate to continue the Member allowance, but the Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA) should not be paid to the Member whilst they were absent, but instead be awarded to the Member who stood-in;
· paragraph (4) stated that the replacement Councillor would receive an SRA, and so there was a cost implication to the Council;
· welcomed the initiative which would ensure that Members would not be disadvantaged and encourage more people to be Councillors, and it would improve diversity; and
· there would be some financial implications from this proposal.
The Deputy Cabinet Member responded to some of the points that had been raised. She referred to paragraph (4) and highlighted that there would be an allowance for the person taking on the role of the Councillor who was absent. She said that Swale Borough Council (SBC) was in the bottom 10 of a list of councils in the country in terms of diversity representation, and that it was important to improve this. The Deputy Cabinet Member said that it was a small step in terms of financial implications, but a big step in terms of encouraging a more inclusive environment.
Members made further comments which included:
· Clarification was needed on the wording of paragraph (4) as, with reference to paragraph (2), it looked as though there would be a doubling-up of payment;
· agreed with the proposals but needed to recognise that an SRA payment was a specific payment for someone doing a particular role and there should not be a ‘double’ payment;
· paragraph (4) could be better phrased;
· positive that this brought parity with employed status;
· needed to consider that if a Member did not return to work, that an element of the monies received should be returned;
· there should be no barriers to stop people becoming councillors;
· it seemed that the Committee agreed in principle to the proposals;
· would this be presented to the General Purposes Committee (GPC) as a constitutional change?; and
· considered that people would become Councillors whether the proposal was in place or not.
In response, the Deputy Cabinet Member explained that she did not consider the principle of the proposal was a driver as such, but removed a barrier and encouraged diversity. She highlighted that there were only eight women out of 47 Councillors at SBC. The Deputy Cabinet Member explained that the recommendations were supported by the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) and by the Local Government Association.
The Head of Policy, Communications and Customer Services acknowledged the comments that had been made and the consensus of opinion in agreement to the principle of the proposal. He advised that the wording of the additional paragraphs had been suggested by the IRP, and he said that the LGA’s wording on this could be looked at to clarify the points that had been raised. The Head of Policy, Communications and Customer Services outlined the process once the proposals had been considered by the Committee and said a report would be submitted to the GPC and then to Full Council.
Councillor Lloyd Bowen proposed that the general principle of the paper was supported by the Policy Development and Review Committee (PDRC), and it be referred to GPC for consideration and compared with LGA wording to clarify the points raised by the Committee. This was seconded by Councillor Sarah Stephen and on being put to the vote, Members agreed.
(1) That the general principle of the paper was supported by the Policy Development and Review Committee, and it be referred to the General Purposes Committee for consideration and compared with LGA wording to clarify the points raised by the Committee.