In response to a recommendation from COSLA, the Scottish Government has amended existing legislation to ensure councillors can receive payment whilst on family leave.
The amendments increase the flexibility local authorities have when granting paid leave – including maternity, paternity, shared and adoption leave - ensuring Councillors can continue to receive payment at an appropriate level.
This follows guidance produced by COSLA on Family Leave for Councillors after Elected Members identified the absence of formal family leave as a key barrier in preventing individuals from standing or re-standing for elected office.
It is hoped the new voluntary legislation, which came into force on April 1, will now encourage a wider range of people to stand for office, breaking down barriers for many.
Over a third of Councils have now adopted or are considering this guidance.
COSLA President, Councillor Alison Evison, welcomed the move.
She said: “I am delighted that regulations now allow Councils the flexibility to appropriately pay Councillors on family leave.
“The role of being a Councillor and having the privilege of representing your community should be open to all.
“The previous limits of legislation have meant that those requiring maternity, paternity, adoption or any other leave whilst in office may have been financially disadvantaged.
“This has been a barrier preventing some people from standing for election, and may have been influential in the decisions of others to step down.
“It has been one factor making our councils less representative of our communities than they could be.
“We look forward to seeing more Councils adopt this guidance and hope that this enables more individuals to consider standing for or staying in Local Government, which we would strongly encourage them to do.”
The move has also been welcomed by Councillor Kelly Parry, of Midlothian Council, COSLA’s Community Wellbeing Spokesperson.
She said: “Having become a parent whilst in elected office, I believe these legislative changes and Family Leave Guidance have the potential to remove structural and cultural barriers as well as address some of the practical challenges that Councillors previously faced when entering parenthood.
“I have campaigned to introduce these types of changes in my own council, and to see these roll out across the country with supporting legislation is fantastic.”
Councillor Lynsey Hamilton will become one of South Lanarkshire Council’s first elected member to take maternity leave.
She said: “In August I am due my first baby. In South Lanarkshire Council, I am one of the first female Councillors to be pregnant in its 25-year history and the first to take Maternity Leave.
“I am lucky that our Council adopted the Family Leave Guidance at the beginning of this year, however it is amazing to think that this only happened in 2020.
“It will make a huge difference to me, being able to take six months off to enjoy my new baby without having to attend Council meetings throughout that time.
“I hope this will encourage more young women into Local Government as a more family friendly place to work.
“This is definitely progress which I hope will open more doors to make it easier for females to represent the communities they live in.”
Notes to Editors:
COSLA’s Barriers to Elected Office Special Interest Group is a cross-party group, chaired by COSLA President Alison Evison. It is focused on reducing the barriers that prevent women and others with protected characteristics from standing, or re-standing for elected office, and increasing the diversity of elected members and ensuring they represent the communities they serve.
The relevant statutory instrument can be found here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ssi/2020/26/contents/made
Family Leave Guidance for Councillors: https://www.cosla.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0027/17838/Family-Leave-Guidance-May-2020.pdf