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New mum dropped as Stratford councillor in maternity leave dispute

PUBLISHED: 14:34 20 March 2015 | UPDATED: 14:58 20 March 2015

Cllr Charlene McLean, inset, will have to contest a by-election in order to regain her seat

Cllr Charlene McLean, inset, will have to contest a by-election in order to regain her seat

Archant

A new mum has been dropped as a councillor for taking time off to care for her sick premature baby.

A by-election has been called for the Stratford and New Town ward after Charlene McLean failed to attend meetings for six months between June and December last year.

Newham Council said they were obliged to expel the councillor under law but admitted Ms McLean, who believed she was entitled to time off, was provided with incorrect information regarding maternity leave.

In a letter sent to labour members in the borough, seen by the Recorder, Ms McLean described the situation as “agonising”, and “beyond stressful in light of my pregnancy circumstances”.

In it she said she was “deeply unhappy with what has happened” and called for a “full and urgent discussion” among members concerning the council’s maternity leave policy for expectant councillors.

The new mum stopped attending meetings due to pregnancy complications in June. She gave birth two months prematurely in August and spent a further three months caring for her baby girl in hospital.

Ms McLean found out that she was not entitled to maternity leave when she returned to take up her role as a councillor in December , when she also learned that she would lose her seat.

In letters from Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales to the council’s chief executive and legal director, also seen by the Recorder, the leader expressed his concern at Ms McLean’s dismissal, describing the situation as “outrageous”.

He said: “I do not believe that it is fair that she is penalised for taking what should be an enshrined form of leave.”

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Newham Council said: “In this case, an officer provided incorrect information to another member regarding statutory maternity leave and it appears this advice was passed on to Ms McLean.

“Neither the council’s executive or the council’s monitoring officer were aware that incorrect information had been provided to Ms Mclean.

“Had the council officer or Ms McLean informed the monitoring officer or the council’s executive, steps would have been taken to agree an extended period of absence for Ms Mclean.”

One Labour party member has blamed the council’s leadership for “not taking care of Ms McLean’s rights”.

Speaking anonymously, they said: “She is a great councillor for that ward and her circumstances were exceptional.

“Not only did she become sick while pregnant, she gave birth prematurely and had to take care of her sick baby.

“She genuinely believed she was entitled to maternity leave during that period and should have been protected by the leadership.”

Ms McLean will now only be able to regain her position through a by-election.

During a meeting yesterday evening, Labour party members chose her as the party’s candidate for the by-election, due to take place on the same day as the General Election on May 7.

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