The Town of Fort Frances now has a policy to address pregnancy leave or parental leave for a member of council.
The policy allows mayor and councillors to take pregnancy or parental leave of their municipal duties for 20 consecutive weeks or less, making the prospect of younger candidates running for council more attractive now that they know they'll have time allotted to them if they become new parents during their term.
“If it's a policy that will invite and give the opportunity to more young people to join council and get involved in the community, I am all for it,” Mayor June Caul told the Times after Monday night's regular council meeting.
"I think it's a wonderful thing to have.
“It's difficult for anybody who's young to be on council," Mayor Caul said. ”They have a full-time job usually.
“Many women have a child or more than one, and it's such a big responsibility on the family side of it,” she added.
“Anything we can do to benefit the progress of having younger community members join council, that's great.”
Council approved and agreed to implement the new policy Monday night.
The policy states the town “recognizes the right of a member of council to take leave for the pregnancy of the member, the birth of the child [or children] of the member, and the adoption of a child [or children] by the member in accordance with the Municipal Act.”
“The town is committed to supporting the well-being of our councillors and their families during pregnancy, childbirth, and the adoption of children,” it noted.
“Furthermore, councillors shall not be compelled to vacate their office as a result of utilizing these leaves as identified in the Municipal Act.”
In the policy, pregnancy and/or parental leave is defined as “an absence of 20 consecutive weeks or less as a result of a member's pregnancy, the birth of a member's child, or the adoption of a child by the member.”
A member's pregnancy and/or parental leave does not require council approval, and their office cannot be declared vacant as a result of the pregnancy and/or parental leave.
During their leave, the member is entitled to continue to receive communication from the town (i.e., council packages, e-mails, and meeting invitations) as if they were not on leave.
The individual on leave also reserves the right to participate as a member at any time during their leave.
They shall continue to be paid and continue to have expenses paid in accordance with any council expense policy.
Where a member of council will be absent due to a pregnancy and/or parental leave, they will be required to provide written notice to the town clerk outlining the expected duration of their leave, including a potential start date and return date.
In the meantime, council will make temporary appointments to fill any vacancies of the member to committees, boards, task forces, project teams, or other meetings or activities of the member.
The policy will be reviewed in each term of council or as required due to legislative changes.
It applies only to members of council. It does not apply to town staff or members of local boards/committees.