Details of IPSAs decision-making regarding funding for maternity/paternity cover

Request

I am writing to request information relating to IPSAs decision making regarding funding for maternity/paternity cover. Under the above Act, I am making a request for the following:

  • Information relating to how IPSA ensures compliance with Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) when making decisions regarding the cover of constituency duties.

  • Confirmation as to whether the IPSA process of making such decisions is applied equally to men and women.

  • Details of the evidence considered by IPSA when deciding whether locum cover will be provided.

  • Whether the IPSA process of considering requests for cover also applies to MPs staff on a wider scale. If not, please detail how parental/maternity leave is dealt with for other MP staff and what policies/rules apply.


Response

IPSA holds the information that you request.

I will take each of your questions in turn:

  • Information relating to how IPSA ensures compliance with Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) when making decisions regarding the cover of constituency duties.

As a public body, IPSA seeks to promote equality and diversity in the exercise of our functions. We seek to ensure that the funding we provide gives all MPs and staff an equal opportunity to perform their parliamentary role and that they do not suffer detriment related to any protected characteristics as a result of our rules. One of the fundamental principles in the Scheme of MPs’ Business Costs and Expenses is ‘Diversity’: IPSA will take account of MPs’ diverse working arrangements and treat MPs fairly, so that they are not disadvantaged or advantaged financially because of the Scheme.

IPSA periodically carries out an Equality Impact Assessment of the Scheme, when changes are made to the rules. To inform this assessment, we consult MPs, their staff and the public on their view of the rules, an in particular whether they believe there is any likely or actual impact of the Scheme rules on equality and diversity.

The Equality Impact Assessment which was conducted after the most recent comprehensive review of the Scheme.

  • Confirmation as to whether the IPSA process of making such decisions is applied equally to men and women.

The decision-making process in relation to requests for contingency funding (including additional funding to cover MPs’ parental or other leave) is applied in the same way to all MPs.

  • Details of the evidence considered by IPSA when deciding whether locum cover will be provided.

We hold information received from MPs as part of applications to contingency funding. This includes information regarding pregnancy and maternity/paternity as well as injury or illness. As it relates to the health of individuals this is ‘sensitive personal data’, and we are withholding this information under s.40 FOIA (Personal Information). Further details on the application of this exemption can be found below.

  • Whether the IPSA process of considering requests for cover also applies to MPs staff on a wider scale. If not, please detail how parental/maternity leave is dealt with for other MP staff and what policies/rules apply.

MPs’ staff members are employed on standard contracts. Their terms and conditions provide for maternity leave of up to 52 weeks. A staff member’s pay entitlement during this period depends on the length of service. Staff with one year’s service are entitled to full pay for six months, followed by statutory maternity pay.

Paternity leave entitlement is two consecutive weeks. For those with more than 26 weeks’ service, this can be taken with full pay. Staff members may also participate in the Shared Parental Leave system. While a staff member is on parental leave, their salary cost is automatically transferred to the centrally held staff absence budget. This ensures that the employing MP has sufficient funds in the normal staffing budget to employ additional staff cover.

Exemptions applied

Section 40 – Personal Information

Information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person is ‘personal data’, as defined by the General Data Protection Principle (GDPR).

Section 40(2) of the FOIA provides that personal information is exempt information if:

(a) it constitutes personal data; and

(b) the condition set out in s. 40(3A)(a) of FOIA is satisfied, namely that disclosure to a member of the public would contravene any of the data protection principles in the GDPR.

Whilst we acknowledge that you have not requested information about specific named individuals, as the numbers involved are so small we consider that disclosure would risk the identification of the individuals concerned. This is because the likelihood exists that individuals who are the subject of this information may be identified either from this information alone, or in combination with other available information.

In our view (a) above is therefore satisfied because the information sought by you relates to information about identifiable, living individual, and (b) is also satisfied because disclosure would breach the first data protection principle in Article 5(1)(a) of the GDPR, which requires that personal information is processed fairly, lawfully and in a transparent manner; processing includes disclosure. In relation to fairness, IPSA is required to process personal data in a manner in which people, including MPs would reasonably expect.

We do not consider it within the reasonable expectations of MPs that details about their health condition (which would include contingency applications for maternity or other health related issues), would be disclosed in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. In this regard, we do not believe that disclosure would be fair, and are obliged to withhold it from disclosure under section 40(2) of the FOIA.

This part of the section 40 exemption is an absolute exemption and so no consideration of public interest arguments for and against disclosure is required.

This concludes our response to your request.

Ref:
CAS-145965
Disclosure:
July 22, 2019
Categories:
IPSA POLICY
Exemptions Applied:
Section 40