Clarence City Council has taken a progressive step towards improved leave provisions at last night’s council meeting, carrying a motion seeking changes that will update the councillor leave request process and move Tasmanian councils in-line with contemporary standards.
Current local government regulations require a council to approve leave requests for fellow councillors. There are no requirements guiding those decisions, nor are there any rights provided to councillors seeking a leave of absence. This is completely at odds with the standards that apply in contemporary work environments.
If the Tasmanian Government agrees to improve these regulatory changes, it will see Tasmanian councils joining their interstate counterparts in paving the way for a fairer work environment for councillors across Australia.
Clarence City Council Deputy Mayor Allison Ritchie said incorporating a right to take a leave of absence, alongside a ‘reasonable grounds’ test, into the existing Tasmanian local government regulations will contribute to creating a fairer, more supportive work environment for councillors, aligning with the approach taken in Victoria, where similar provisions have been implemented.
“Clarence City Council prides itself on being a progressive organisation, creating a work environment which is positive, fair and flexible for all,” said Deputy Mayor Allison Ritchie.
“We are now looking for support from other councils through the Local Government Association of Tasmanian, and ultimately from the Tasmanian Government via an amendment to the current regulatory framework.
“When we see gaps in our regulations that are out of step with contemporary standards, we must work together to address these issues and align the processes with today’s working environment.”
Council viewed the current leave process as substandard, finding it does not comply with contemporary community expectations. The proposed changes will provide councillors with the right to request up to three months of cumulative leave in a 12-month period for ordinary circumstances, or up to six months in a 12-month period, where they or their partner require leave in relation to pregnancy and parenting. However, if Councillors need to take leave greater than three or six months, they would be required to provide relevant evidence to support their request.
The motion also specifies if there are concerns regarding an extended period of leave, it can be referred to the Minister for Local Government or Director of Local Government for review. It is not considered appropriate for councillors to sit in judgement of an elected colleague, so referral to the Minister or Director would be appropriate if there are concerns about particular leave of absence requests by a councillor.
“In order to bring our leave processes up-to-date we have asked our Chief Executive Officer to request the Local Government Association of Tasmania (LGAT) to include this motion for debate at the next LGAT General Meeting, to seek the support of other Tasmanian councils,” Deputy Mayor Ritchie said.
The Council’s decision is a positive first step towards achieving progress and equality, while ensuring Councillors have access to the leave they need.