Vote will decide parental leave payment to key county councillors

Clr Lucy Nethsingha

Much has changed since Cllr Lucy Nethsingha and the rainbow alliance took control of Cambridgeshire County Council in May. - Credit: Archant

County councillors who receive special responsibility allowances for chairing committees may become entitled to parental leave payments.  

It could mean those absent for six months for leave related to maternity, paternity or adoption would still receive their extra payments in full. 

The constitution and ethics committee meet on September 29 to decide. 

It will be a straight choice of yes or no and the assistant director of human resources has made no specific recommendation. 

It follows a report from the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) earlier this year that reviewed all allowances. 

"The IRP recognised the importance of promoting parental leave and the positive benefits that this could bring to enhance and increase the diversity of councillor representation,” says a report to the committee. 

The Local Government Association (LGA) has developed “suggested approaches and policies for councillor’s parental leave” 

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The recommendation from the IRP is that Special Responsibility Allowances continue to be paid. 

However, they recognise that “some councils have chosen to discontinue such payments whilst the councillor is on leave.” 

The financial impact of continuing to pay the allowances “is considered to be low”. 

The reports says as a comparison against the council’s workforce of 4,300 employees, an average of 70-80 employees are off at any one time on maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave, 

This amounts to less than two per cent of the workforce.  

Applying this to the number of Councillors would equate to an average of one individual.  

The council says it recognises that elected members are not employees and therefore are not entitled to the same rights and benefits. 

There is no legal entitlement for councillors to have paid parental leave.  

“However, the council is committed to ensuring that Cambridgeshire is a county where families are supported to develop and flourish,” says the report. 

“The introduction of a parental leave policy for councillors may help to remove barriers that existing and prospective members may face. 

“Improved provision for new parents will contribute towards increasing the diversity of experience, age and background of local authority councillors.” 

It will also assist with retaining experienced councillors and making public office more accessible to individuals who might otherwise feel excluded from it.”