Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham City Council Schools chief 'told to go if pregnant'

Brigid Jones Image copyright Birmingham City Council
Image caption Brigid Jones was elected as a councillor in 2011

The councillor in charge of Birmingham's children's services was told she would probably have to step down if she became pregnant - because the council has no maternity policy.

Brigid Jones, cabinet member for education and social services, said she was told a procedure did not exist for someone in her role.

Ms Jones, a councillor since 2011, branded the situation "ridiculous".

Birmingham City Council said it was looking at introducing a policy.

'Dark ages'

Ms Jones, who was 26 years old when appointed to the council's cabinet in 2013, said she was thinking about starting a family and had enquired about her rights.

The Labour councillor said she was told there was no provision for maternity arrangements attached to her £41,696.75 a year job.

More updates on this and other stories in Birmingham

"I was told there isn't a policy and I'd most likely have to step down from my position if I were to have a child," she said.

"Obviously I thought this was ridiculous. I talked to the chief executive [Mark Rogers] and he thought it was ridiculous. He's now working on a policy."

Ms Jones, a councillor for the Selly Oak Ward, said she also felt that "the job of a councillor is from the dark ages."

Analysis: Kathryn Stanczyszyn, BBC WM Political Reporter

Some of the constitutions for other major city authorities do not always have a clear policy on maternity rules for cabinet members.

Yet some, like the London Borough of Hackney, have included the policy in their constitution and the cabinet member's position will be filled on a temporary basis, as it would in any job.

But this approach is not put into writing everywhere.

Of course, this may have not been so much of a prevalent issue in the past. But with the number of women under 40 becoming councillors on the rise, it looks like it now has to be looked at by many councils.

And with Birmingham's history on gender equality - it was hit with a huge legal action over equal pay for female workers - the council will be keen to make sure it doesn't get this wrong.

She said the role had not moved with the times and was not representative of the main population.

"We haven't had a pregnant cabinet member in a very long time in Birmingham, so it actually hasn't been an issue before," she said.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Ms Jones said when she discussed the lack of policy with the chief executive, they both agreed it was 'ridiculous'

"That's how unrepresentative things have been, but I have had assurances that things will change which I do believe."

Sam Smethers, from the Fawcett Society, the UK's largest membership charity for women's rights, said the political system regards councillors as effectively self-employed, so they did not have the same rights as someone who was employed and called for reform.

"We've got these big cabinet roles which effectively are full-time jobs in themselves and yet the policies around them, the procedures around them really haven't caught up with that," she said.

He said a third of all councillors were women, with only 15% of council leaders being female.

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