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Bethan Sayed and Women’s Equality Network Wales call for Senedd job share


WALES shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to introduce job sharing for Senedd Members as it looks at electoral reforms. 

That’s the message from a former Plaid Cymru politician who felt forced to give up her career after becoming a mum. 

Bethan Sayed has said Wales should introduce legislation so two people could share one post as a Member of Senedd in a bid to boost the diversity of those serving in the Welsh Parliament. 

Some 122,000 people in the UK last year were employed in a job share, meaning one job role is carried out usually by two part time workers, though it such roles are disproprtionately held by women with dependent children. 

Sayed, who had represented the South Wales West region for 14 years before stepping down at last year’s election, has researched the idea for the Women’s Equality Network (WEN) Wales and the Electoral Reform Society Cymru. 

WEN Wales is backing calls for job sharing to become a possibility for Senedd Members and to encourage local councils to boost the numbers of councillors, of both sexes, holding executive roles – such as council leader – on a job share basis. 

The aim of making it possible for two people to be elected as a single Senedd Member would be to make it possible for a wider range of people to enter electoral politics. 

Sayed said: “The person who has a grocery shop or an SME who say they would never be able to do that (become an elected politician), it would be so time consuming, they know what is needed, how to engage people and can market, they have real links with the community on a different level so we’re missing out on lots of people who can be good politicians just by having the wrong system. 

“So why not try job sharing, it has to be better than not trying at all?” 

Research reviewed by Sayed has shown such a system can, and has, benefitted women and people from ethnic minority communities either by opening up opportunities, reducing the financial risk of seeking a career in elected office, creating a more supportive career plan and allowing greater flexibility. 

That, said Sayed, will benefit candidates and electoral politics more generally: “If you get people from different experiences then you tend to get better politicians. Diversity is wider than the colour of your skin or sexual orientation it is about where do you come from, your background and do you an accent? 

“There are good and genuine people in politics but we can get more of them and from a wider base in society.” 

Sayed became a mum for the first time in March 2020, a year out from the elections, and said she was simply “too tired” to carry on with the necessary campaigning to keep her place as a Plaid candidate and look towards an election campaign. 

She had also campaigned for a staff member to be able to fill in for her while she took maternity leave. While another Plaid Cymru member was able to vote for her, as a proxy – effectively voting twice – Sayed said she would have liked a more formal structure to that, so she could have been consulted formally especially on any votes of conscience. 

Shortly before Sayed took maternity leave the Labour Stella Creasy had advertised for a “locum MP” to undertake constituency and case work for her while she was on maternity leave. 

Sayed employed one of her staff to do the same but said she would have liked it to be on official basis as a locum member who would have equal status to the elected politician. 

In the research paper Sayed explores how a job share could work with candidates agreeing principles and working arrangements beyond the usual party ties and manifesto commitments. It is suggested they should be elected jointly through a single, shared vote to retain jobsharers as a “single legal entity” as one joint candidate on the election paper. 

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During her time in the Senedd, and previously the National Assembly for Wales, Sayed served as one of 20 “list members”, meaning she was elected via a form of proportional representation, and via votes for her party, rather than herself as an individual. 

Such members, if they stood down for any reason, were replaced by the next candidate from their party’s nominated list, rather than their resignation forcing a by-election. In the last Senedd Plaid Cymru’s Helen Mary Jones and UKIP’s Mandy Jones became Assembly Members, without facing fresh elections, due to resignations of the post holders. 

Sayed acknowledged the system currently in place meant Wales isn’t “wedded” to the first past the post system used to elect MPs to Westminster and the current 40 Senedd Members elected in constituencies. 

A special Senedd committee is currently looking at electoral reforms and last week Labour first minister Mark Drakeford and Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price set out their preferred plans to expand the Senedd, to 96 members, and electing them via a list system with votes cast for parties rather than candidates. 

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WEN Wales is calling for the committee on Senedd reform to make a policy recommendation to the Welsh Government for a change in legislation that permits job-sharing candidates in the next Senedd election, which could be explored as the reform bill is being prepared. 

The research paper states support for job sharing in politics jumps by 11 per cent, to 48 per cent, once those polled understood what are described as the “key benefits”. 

The paper suggests that any future legislation on job-sharing in the Senedd can gather wide public support if the rationale and benefits of such a proposal are communicated clearly and transparently. 

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