The Act introduces a wide range of measures. Tucked away in section 8 and schedule 7 of the Act ( – see page 96), is a new right for workers (note workers – not only employees) to take Emergency Volunteering Leave.

The provisions only apply to employers with a headcount of 10 or more. The legislation does not state 10 or more employees. It states a headcount of 10 or more. This means workers must be counted when determining whether the threshold is met. There are a few employers the rules don’t apply to such as crown employees, police and a few other limited exceptions. There’s also a power for more exceptions to be added by regulations at a later date.

Workers will be able to tell their employer no later than 3 working days before taking Volunteering Leave, that they intend to be absent for the purposes of Volunteering Leave for a period of 2, 3 or 4 consecutive weeks in the first 16 weeks after the new provisions are brought into force.  They will be brought into force by regulations at a date yet to be announced, but given the need to staff 4000 temporary beds in the Excel exhibition centre in London, it is likely to be soon. There is scope for further 16 week period(s) to be declared if necessary and volunteers will be able to take a further block of leave in each further period.

To prove they are entitled to the leave, workers will have to have an “emergency volunteering certificate” issued by an appropriate authority certifying the worker has been approved as an emergency volunteer in health or social care and will be working as such for the dates specified in the certificate.

Workers’ rights are similar to those of a woman on maternity leave. The worker is entitled to the benefit of, and is bound by the obligations of, all terms and conditions of employment other than terms about remuneration which is defined as wages or salary. This suggests that bonuses or commission payments should continue during volunteering leave. The worker also has the right to return to the job they were employed in before the absence and on no less favourable terms and with the same seniority and pension rights.

Workers (and employees as all employees will be workers, but not all workers will be employees) are protected against being subjected to a detriment (which in the case of a worker could include future work being withdrawn) on the grounds that they took, sought to take or made use of Volunteering Leave or that the employer believed the worker was likely to do so. Employees are also protected from being dismissed via an extension to the existing automatically unfair dismissal provisions.

During volunteering leave the Secretary of State will make arrangements for paying compensation for loss of earnings and for travel and subsistence for volunteers. Compensation for loss of earnings will only be paid if the worker would otherwise have been paid, so a worker already out of work (for example because of lay-off or redundancy) would only receive travel and subsistence expenses and a worker who has been furloughed would only receive their furlough pay (80% of pay capped at £2,500.00).

If you require advice about Emergency Volunteering Leave, please call the office on 01780 757589. The team are all well, working from home and social distancing at this time and are ready to assist.