The government has called upon the public to volunteer their time to support the NHS and other social care authorities, where pressure from the on going Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic is reaching crisis point
Many of those volunteers will already have jobs and the government has introduced measures to allow people to take leave in order to volunteer. These measures come under the Coronavirus Act 2020, which came in to force last week (25 March 2020), which introduces Emergency Volunteering Leave (“EVL”).
Where a worker signs up to volunteer to help the NHS or associated social care authority they will be able to obtain an emergency volunteering certificate which they can provide to their employer.
“Workers” includes agency workers but excludes:
1. Crown or Parliamentary employees (such as civil servants); and/or
2. Police or military workers; and/or
3. Workers whose employers have fewer than 10 employees.
They will need to give their employers three days’ notice and must take their EVL in blocks of two, three or four weeks. Only one period of EVL can be taken in any one 16 week volunteering period.
Whilst on EVL workers will not receive pay from their employer. They do, however, remain bound by the remaining terms of their contract of employment and so annual leave accrual, pension rights and other contractual benefits (such as private health insurance) will remain in place.
There are also provisions for the Secretary of State to set up a compensation scheme which will reimburse volunteers for some of their lost income including, for example, travel and subsistence. At the time of writing, that scheme has not been established and we are waiting for further details on this from the government.
Under the new laws, workers will be entitled to return to their normal jobs on the same terms and conditions once they have finished volunteering.
They are also offered protection against detriment and dismissal. So, if a worker takes, or proposes to take, EVL and they are dismissed as a result, that dismissal will be classed as automatically unfair. They will then not need the usual two years’ service in order to bring an unfair dismissal claim and their will be no maximum limit on compensation.
It’s really important to note that whilst the Coronavirus Act 2020 is in force, the provisions relating to EVL require further legislation to be made before they will take effect. We will, of course, update you as soon as that legislation is passed.
If you are an employer and have staff asking to take EVL or if you are a worker and are looking to take a period of EVL but want some advice before doing so please contact us here
If you have any further queries around the above topic or otherwise, contact the firm here