Neighbouring Mid Suffolk and Babergh District Councils have adopted an enhanced paid parental leave policy for councillors.
Any councillor who is the designated carer of a child will be entitled to six months leave, with the chance to extend this to up to 52 weeks. The policy covers adoption, maternity, paternity and shared parental leave, and was based on a model policy created by the Local Government Association (LGA).
Employers will continue to receive their basic or special allowances while on parental leave, while also retaining their legal duty under the Local Government Act 1972 to attend a council meeting within a six-month period, unless granted an extended leave of absence.
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According to Mid Suffolk and Babergh District Councils, they voluntarily adopted the policy despite there currently being no legal entitlement for councillors to have paid parental leave. Their aim was to make public office and local authority roles more accessible to people who might otherwise feel excluded, as well as increasing experience, age and background diversity.
A spokesperson for Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils said: “We want our councillors to reflect the diversity of the communities they represent, with a wide range of ages, experience and backgrounds. Thanks to cross-party support for this new policy at this month’s full council meetings, we look forward to being able to offer improved provision for elected members who become parents while in office, ensuring they can take parental leave without losing out financially.”
Council chairman Cllr James Caston stated in a council meeting: “I welcome this wholeheartedly. It takes away the feeling that you are not doing your job properly if you don’t turn up to meetings when you’ve just become a parent. We could definitely see some younger councillors in the next intake. We want local politics to be as welcoming as possible to everybody who wants to enter.”