IPSA is committed to ensuring its rules help to support MPs in maintaining a family life and support MPs who require time away from work for other reasons.
This includes supporting MPs before, during, and after the birth or adoption of a child (including surrogacy) and those who may be absent due to sickness or the need for medical treatment. We are also committed to supporting those with caring responsibilities for others.
As independent officeholders, MPs are not employees and therefore not eligible for any statutory parental leave. The terms “leave” or “absence” mean something different for MPs because they remain the elected constituency representative and there are no formal requirements in place in Parliament for them to take leave.
In practice, MPs occasionally need to take time away from Parliament following, for example, the arrival of a baby or if they are seriously unwell. However, due to the unique constitutional nature of their position, some aspects of an MP’s role cannot be carried out by anyone else while they are absent, for example, taking part in debates or parliamentary committees.
For these reasons, IPSA has developed alternative, flexible funding arrangements to support MPs to take absence from work for an extended period, and so that their constituents and their office continue to be supported during that period. A number of MPs have accessed this support for different reasons and in different ways.
This guidance explains how MPs can access tailored funding to support any extended absence from their role.
Any MP who requires further information or wishes to discuss their circumstances should contact IPSA at 020 7811 6400 or email@example.com so we can discuss options to support any period of absence.
Support available to cover an MP's absence
Funding arrangements to support MPs remain unchanged if they are absent:
MPs are paid their full salary throughout their period of leave
MPs continue to have full access to all the budgets that support their work, such as office, accommodation, staffing and travel
Funding available to cover an MP's absence
Since 2021-22, IPSA has provided funding from the MP Parental Leave & Absence budget to allow MPs to recruit additional capacity into their office if they expect to be absent from work for an extended period of normally more than three months up and to seven months.
MPs are encouraged to contact IPSA to discuss any funding for material absence which may fall below three months, as well as cases which may span longer than seven months and where IPSA has the discretion to extend the funding if necessary.
It should be noted that where an MP is absent from Westminster for a more limited period due to an important life event, IPSA offers enhanced account management and customer service support to the office when it is made aware. MPs who face ongoing conditions and may require reasonable adjustments whilst present in Westminster should contact IPSA to discuss our disability assistance funding support.
Where an absence spans financial years, any funds remaining will be carried forward into the following year, alongside any additional provision needed for annual salary increases.
All claims from this budget will be published in aggregate across all MPs and not against an individual.
|Period of absence
|Period of handover
|Period of absence budget
|MP parental leave & absence budget available*
*The funding available is a pro-rated calculation based on the cost (salary plus on costs) of employing an MP Representative for the period of absence budget.
This support, however, is not one size fits all and MPs are under no obligation to use the funding as in the table above so long as they remain within its budget envelope.
As they may not be able to conduct end-to-end recruitment, induction, and security processes in time, MPs can therefore use the equivalent funding as they see fit providing it is within the ordinary rules of the Scheme on staffing.
For more information, visit Staffing costs.
This means the following options are available (and can be combined) providing the total cost falls within the total funding available, and that staff are employed on a standard IPSA contract, job description, and salary within the relevant range for their job role:
recruit a full-time MP Representative to cover the period of absence
temporarily promote an existing staff member to take on additional duties during the period of absence (such as the management of other staff)
recruit additional staff on fixed-term contracts to increase capacity for the period of absence (for example, caseworkers)
temporarily increase the contracted hours of existing part-time staff, or pay overtime
fund learning and development for staff taking on additional responsibility during the MP’s absence
The funding does not need to be used for cover for one continuous period. An MP undergoing medical treatment could, for example, seek funding to cover absence for three months, and then an additional three months at a later stage.
This may also be relevant for adoption processes.
IPSA offers the following extra support for any eligible period of extended absence in addition to or instead of the staff cover funding above:
funding for travel for any additional staff members (from the Travel budget)
a single point of contact at IPSA to assist them during the period of leave, including at senior level where preferable
an additional payment card and amended proxy permissions to provide flexibility while the MP is absent
Funding for cover during parental leave
MPs taking time off after the birth or adoption (including surrogacy) of a child are eligible for funding to provide cover for their office during their absence via this budget.
This is normally expected to be taken before the end of the first year following the birth or adoption, although we encourage those undergoing adoption or surrogacy-related processes to contact us if they need to be absent before the arrival of the child.
MPs who request funding for cover during a period of parental leave are required to provide IPSA with a Maternity Certificate (Form MAT B1) or a Matching Certificate from an adoption agency.
In cases of surrogacy, a Surrogacy Declaration is required or if legal parenthood has already been established then IPSA will require a Parental Order.
The budget applies to same-sex couples in the same way.
Where an MP plans to take shared parental leave, they should contact IPSA to discuss what may be feasible and desirable. Biological fathers, partners, and second adopters undertaking the principal at-home carer role are eligible for funding under equal terms and should contact IPSA to agree on the next steps.
Where the MP is the principal at home-carer and has de facto parental responsibility for a stepchild, the budget can also apply.
Where kinship arrangements are in place, such as where a grandparent assumes the sudden care responsibility for a grandchild, the MP should contact IPSA to discuss support which can be offered, particularly if this is long-term.
Where an MP or their partner experiences complications in childbirth, baby loss, or child bereavement, IPSA will offer enhanced account management support to them and their office through this intensely difficult period. Where this leads to a material medical or caring responsibility absence, the funding can apply, and IPSA can arrange a single point of contact, including at senior level, to discuss in confidence.
As mentioned, in all cases where an MP experiences a significant life event, IPSA stands ready to offer enhanced account management and customer service support outside of this budget so that no individual falls through the gap during a shorter-term absence when additional staff cover may not be required or practicable.
The time periods align with the current arrangements for proxy voting in the House of Commons and its future pilot for serious illness. There is no obligation for the MP to use the proxy voting arrangements at the same time as the absence funding, but MPs can apply to the Speaker of the House of Commons to vote by proxy.
For more information, the Clerk of Divisions can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling extension 3261.
MPs may also wish to discuss matters with Members’ HR at email@example.com or the Parliamentary Health and Wellbeing Service (PHWS) and its materials for MPs and staff at PHWS@parliament.uk.
Download the PHWS booklet on Services for Members of both Houses.
Download the PHWS booklet on Services for Members' and Peers' staff.
Funding for cover for sickness, medical treatment, or other absence
MPs who need to take time off due to sickness, medical treatment, or for other reasons can also apply for funding for cover from the MP Parental Leave & Absence budget.
Where an MP is unavailable to request the funding themselves, IPSA will support the nominated caretaker MP to make decisions about the arrangements needed to support the office.
A Member shall demonstrate eligibility for the absence funding by providing IPSA with documentation from a medical professional to support the absence.
We understand this may not be immediately possible or appropriate. In these circumstances, please speak to us.
The normal funding available is intended to cover the period of absence (plus up to one-month handover). Longer periods and/or alternative arrangements may be agreed on a case-by-case basis.
Where an MP is required to undertake a caring responsibility for a dependant or another – such as a parent or partner – for an extended period, we encourage MPs to contact IPSA to discuss the next steps and potential support arrangements.
IPSA can also liaise with Whips in Parliament and Members’ HR on the appropriate provision.
Accessing the MP Parental Leave & Absence budget
Contact us: We encourage any MP who expects to be absent from work to contact their IPSA account manager at the earliest opportunity so that we can work with them to put in place the funding and arrangements needed to support their office while they are absent. A senior single point of contact can be arranged.
Decide how you want to keep in touch with IPSA while you are absent from work. This might be through a member of the MP’s team or directly. We will discuss with you how and how frequently you want to keep in touch, bearing in mind how we will support the MP and the MP’s team during year-end and annual publication.
Decide and inform us in writing if you want to delegate any decision-making to a proxy while you are absent. This might relate to business costs and/or staffing. Most MPs decide to keep responsibility for staffing decisions but to delegate decisions about business costs.
Consider requesting another payment card for your office manager.
Returning to work
IPSA requires an MP to inform us they have returned to work, so any additional support may be provided.
Given their importance, funding from this budget will not be impacted if the MP returns occasionally to Westminster for equivalents of "keeping-in-touch days".
Where, however, their presence in Parliament is so regular they could reasonably be deemed to have returned to work, the arrangements will be revised and/or withdrawn.
MPs who have taken parental leave will also be entitled to the following support for MPs with children who are dependants:
uplift to the accommodation budget for each child for whom they need to provide accommodation, up to a maximum of three uplifts
the cost of hotel accommodation for their children, up to the usual caps as set out in the Scheme
the cost of journeys for children between the constituency and London
the cost of a carer’s journey where the children need to be accompanied
For more information, visit Dependants.
Other MPs who have been absent due to illness may need additional support from the Disability Assistance budget if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on their ability to do normal daily activities.
MP Representative job description
IPSA created a new job description for an “MP Representative” who may be recruited or promoted to cover the period when the MP is absent.
This person may, for example, be responsible for leading a team of staff, organising community events, meeting Ministers if they agree to do so, and working with many stakeholders to act on behalf of the absent MP within the constraints of the constitution.
Although the MP Representative will not enter parliamentary chambers or engage in debates, ask questions in the House of Commons or vote, they could submit written questions on the MP’s behalf.
Visit the job description generator to access the MP Representative profile.
Consultation about support for parental leave and other MP absence
IPSA conducted an extensive further consultation across 2022 and received positive feedback on the support available from parliamentary stakeholders, other legislatures, and external subject matter experts.
This exercise was led by Helen Jones, an IPSA Board member and former MP.
Download MP parental leave & extended absence: Qualitative research and engagement – April - November 2022.
Implications for publication and FOI
The MP Parental Leave and Absence budget is a central and uncapped fund, and costs incurred against this budget are aggregated and not published against individual MPs.
IPSA also receives requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act.
As required by the legislation, IPSA considers FOI requests on a case-by-case basis and whether there are exemptions that apply that mean information should not be disclosed.
For example, we take privacy very seriously and consider the section 40(2) Personal Information exemption which provides an exemption from disclosing information if complying with the request would breach any of the principles in the UK GDPR.