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Clerk goes on holiday, locum booked, without minuted council approval

0 votes
On the end of the agenda for last night's council meeting it was stated that a locum would be taking on the Clerk's duties at the next monthly meeting. After last night's meeting it appeared that the Clerk is taking a month's holiday and a locum has been appointed to cover. However, this is the first I and another councillor had heard about this arrangement which has not been addressed, discussed or agreed at any council meeting, and I can find no correspondence about it in my email files. As far as I am aware, the Clerk has not given members of the council written notice of their intention to take holiday, the length of the break, the dates, how much of their contracted annual leave will be used, how much pay will be made to the clerk via the existing BAX system to take into account their absence for a month, let alone what arrangements the council would need to make to fill in during the Clerk's absence and at what cost, how council emails/correspondence/financial affairs/documents/laptop/etc will be accessed and dealt with while the Clerk is absent and by whom, whether the bank has been informed of the Clerk's absence....etc. etc. I was taken aback when on leaving the hall I overheard the Clerk talking about her month's holiday break abroad but the meeting had ended and the hall was being locked up so there was nothing to be done there an then. However, today I have checked all my emails, agendas and signed minutes for the past six meetings and can find no mention of the Clerk taking a month's leave or the council employing a locum in their place. The Clerk works from home (for which they are paid a monthly fee), but does not allow councillors or the public access to documents there. They use their own private computer for our council's business and their other council's business. I do not have a copy of the Clerk's signed contract of employment and do not know whether I can get hold of one now the Clerk is on leave in order to check the contents regarding holiday entitlement/pay etc. Either way, I and the other councillor are astonished that as the council as a whole is the Clerk's employer, we knew nothing about their holiday intentions or locum arrangements which appear to have been negotiated and agreed in private with someone on the council, outside of any parish council meeting. Our council does not have an employment or similar committee as we are a very small council. The Chairman seems to have taken on the role of the Clerk's line manager although there is no resolution by the council to that effect that I can find in any of the minutes of past meetings. What should I and the other councillor do about this? We are concerned about the legal/employment/financial implications, but are aware that the Clerk, Chairman and Vice Chairman tend to discuss and decide matters in their own bubble outside meetings.
by (680 points)

2 Answers

0 votes
Not good and very frustrating for you and other councillors. The council is the clerks employer  and all employment legislation regarding an employee must be followed. From offering the position through employment and contracts of employment which should comprehensively cover all details including holiday entitlement and how an when holidays are to be taken.

Normally such matters would be handled by an employment committee who are given  clearly defined terms of reference from council as to what powers they have when dealing with the employee. As they would normally also deal with employee grievance procedures and assessments there should be a minimum number of councillors appointed to such a  committee ( standing orders). Under no circumstances should it ever be one person as checks and balances are required to avoid charged of bias etc.

Simple solution is to approach the Chair who seems to be happily soldiering on with the current system and request they let you (and other concerned councillors) know where and when they were elected to act in such a manner on employment matters ( and supply you with a copy of the relevant minutes). It stands to reason that if they feel they are acting with or under the instructions of a council decision then they should be able to give you the information rather than you entering a hunt the needle in the haystack operation
by (20.8k points)
0 votes
Is it the fact that the clerk is taking a holiday that is of concern or that the arrangements seem to have been made without full council approval?

Most clerks are employed under a standard contract of employment which has been agreed by the SLCC and NALC and like all employees are entitled to holidays, sick leave etc. etc.  Many contracts in small parishes do state that any time off, for example, is to be by mutual agreement and then state that the chair acts as line manager in such circumstances but you should check as it's not always the case.  In accordance with employment law, the clerk would be entitled to paid holiday and it would certainly not be necessary to "tell the bank" for example!
Your clerk should not be using her own equipment for your work.  It is the council's responsibility to provide the clerk with equipment to do the job and that should include a computer/laptop/tablet, printer, etc. and often a mobile phone or contribute to the cost of a home phone to use to conduct your business.  Most clerks of small parishes work from home.

Personally I think it sensible to employ a locum to cover the clerk's absence so there is continuity of cover but I agree that if there are costs involved then this should have been agreed by the council.  I do know that some clerks cover for each other in an area so there is no cost involved but that is not always the case.
by (10.8k points)
Thanks for the comments.
Of course I have no objection to the Clerk taking a holiday.
I do object to the lack of transparency and due process regarding the details of the holiday dates/arrangements for locum cover that have not been put before the council for resolution at any point before the Clerk's departure for a month overseas.
I have asked the Chairman for a copy of the Clerk's contract as I do not have one even though as a councillor I should have.
There is no minuted authority for the Chairman to act as the Clerk's line manager, and even so the council as a whole should have approved the employee's holiday arrangements and separately approved the locum appointment and financial reparation in advance of either taking place. This has not happened.
I have pointed out to both the Internal and External Auditors that the Clerk insists on using her own computer instead of the laptop paid for and provided for her (bought new three years ago) and neither seemed concerned.
Should I raise this issue and that of the locum costs to cover the Clerk's leave with the Internal Auditor/the Borough Council Monitoring Officer as well as the parish council Chairman?

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