News / Edmonton

'Pregnancy shouldn’t be an exception': City paves way for councillor parental leave

Currently, councillors can lose their jobs if they take a leave of more than eight consecutive weeks

Ward 2 Coun. Bev Esslinger with her grandson standing in line to register for the 2017 municipal election. Esslinger has advocated for a new bylaw that would allow councillors to take paid parental leave, a first in Canada.

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Ward 2 Coun. Bev Esslinger with her grandson standing in line to register for the 2017 municipal election. Esslinger has advocated for a new bylaw that would allow councillors to take paid parental leave, a first in Canada.

The Parental Leave Bylaw awaits full approval of council, which would make Edmonton the first city in Canada to allow councillors to take paid parental leave.

The decision will be made at Tuesday’s city council meeting, although Coun. Bev Esslinger is sure it will get passed.

“We have had many conversations up to this point. Once any bylaw gets to this point, typically it will go forward,” she said.

Currently, councillors may lose their position if they take a leave of more than eight consecutive weeks unless there are “exceptional circumstances like a heart attack”.

“Pregnancy shouldn’t be an exception, it should be something that you should automatically be entitled to,” Esslinger said.

The new bylaw will permit parental leave of up to 26 weeks for councillors, where the first ten weeks will be paid and the remaining will depend on how much much work the councillor puts in.

City council was able to create a new bylaw on parental leave after a change to the Municipal Government Act allowed municipalities to create their own policies around parental leave.

Councillors will have to notify the city clerk, the mayor and city manager six weeks in advance for their intent to take parental leave.

The councillor will receive written terms of how they will manage their time and what duties they will perform during their leave, including a stipulation for attending council meetings in person or over the phone.

Esslinger stressed that having a parental leave bylaw will allow for a more “family friendly” council.

“That encourages people to consider running for office and be respectful of our community,” she said.

The federal government is currently considering options to create a dedicated leave for new fathers, based on a model in Quebec. Quebec is the only province to have dedicated leave for new fathers.

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