Maternity and paternity leave set to be offered to North Yorkshire councillors

County Hall in Northallerton.

Maternity and paternity leave looks set to be offered to elected members of an authority for the first time.

North Yorkshire County Council’s executive will be told next week that it remains among the 96 per cent of the country’s local authorities which do not have such a policy for councillors.

A report to the meeting states Brandon Lewis MP, chairman of the Conservative Party, sent a letter to all Conservative Group and council leaders last year urging them to introduce parental leave for elected members.

While there is no legal right to parental leave for those elected to public office, Mr Lewis said the lack of a parental leave policy for elected representatives could act as a barrier to women standing for public office and entering politics.

Under the Local Government Act 1972 councillors must attend at least one meeting of the authority in any six-month period and failure to do
so results in a by-election. As such, a woman on 12 months’ maternity leave who was a councillor would risk losing her seat.

The report states cross-party county council member groups have shown strong support for the introduction of such a policy, which for example could enshrine six months maternity leave and two weeks paternity leave.

The report states: “The implementation of a parental leave policy
would negate the need to hold a by-election where a county councillor was on
maternity leave and had more than six months of absence.

“This could yield considerable savings, as illustrated by the cost of the 2018 Knaresborough by-election, which was £14,000.”

Partly due to the age of many of the councillors it is anticipated the take up of parental leave at the county, should the policy be implemented, would be low.

The council’s executive will consider making a recommendation to a full meeting of the authority next month.