Coronavirus and Emergency Volunteering Leave
Emergency volunteering leave is a new concept allowing workers to leave their primary job and temporarily volunteer in the health or care sector.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 came into force on 25 March 2020 and introduces a number of immediate emergency measures in response to the current Covid-19 pandemic. As well as some employment-related changes, the Act provides for a new right to take emergency volunteering leave. Further regulations will need to be passed in order to bring the new right into effect.
Those who are approved as volunteers will be required to:
- deliver medicines from pharmacies;
- drive patients to appointments;
- bring patients home from hospital; and
- make regular phone calls to check on people isolating at home.
What Is Emergency Volunteering Leave?
Workers will be entitled to take unpaid leave from their current job to provide voluntary support to the NHS and social care sector.
Who Is Entitled To Take Emergency Volunteering Leave?
All workers will be entitled to take the leave, with the exception of:
- Workers who work for small employers with fewer than 10 employees
- Civil servants
- Those who work for the legislature (member of House of Lords staff, member of House of Commons staff and equivalent bodies in Wales, Scotland and Ireland)
- Police officers
- Anyone else specified in the future regulations
Are There Any Restrictions On Taking Emergency Volunteering Leave?
Employers with fewer than 10 workers will not be required to grant Emergency Volunteering Leave, and those who work for the Crown (such as the armed forces or police officers) are not eligible to volunteer.
Can A Furloughed Worker Apply For Emergency Volunteering Leave?
According to guidance issued related to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, it is possible for furloughed workers to participate in volunteer work provided the work does not generate revenue or provide services to or on behalf of the employing organisation.
What Are The Notice Requirements For Taking Emergency Volunteering Leave?
Workers are required to give their employers 3 working days’ notice in writing before taking a period of Emergency Volunteering Leave. They must also produce an Emergency Volunteering Certificate, issued from the appropriate authority and confirming they have been approved for emergency volunteering and the period for which they will be acting as an emergency volunteer.
What Are The Appropriate Authorities?
Appropriate authorities include:
- a local authority;
- the NHS Commissioning Board; and
- the Department of Health.
How Long Can The Period Of Emergency Volunteering Leave Be?
Workers can take only one period of leave in each volunteering period. The period of leave set out in the Emergency Volunteering Certificate can be two, three or four consecutive weeks and must begin and end in the same ‘volunteering period’. Meaning that the maximum volunteer time is four weeks per 16-week period. The initial 16 week volunteering period began on 25 March 2020 and end on 14 July 2020, there may be subsequent volunteering periods set thereafter by the Secretary of State.
What Are The Pay Requirements During Emergency Volunteering Leave?
Emergency Volunteering Leave is unpaid leave.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 requires the Secretary of State to make accompanying regulations to compensate workers who choose to take Emergency Volunteering Leave for their loss of earnings and for travel and sustenance. How much will be reimbursed and how to claim compensation has not yet been determined.
What Are The Terms And Conditions Of Employment During Emergency Volunteering Leave?
Workers absent on Emergency Volunteering Leave have the following rights: to benefit from their terms and conditions that would have applied had they not been absent (except in relation to pay), to return to the job that they did before the leave on no less favourable terms and conditions and to protection from detriment and dismissal for having taken the leave.
It will be unlawful to subject an employee or worker to detriment for exercising their right to emergency volunteering leave and it will be automatic unfair dismissal if an employer dismisses an employee for taking or proposing to take the leave. Compensation for breach of the rights described above is uncapped and requires no qualifying length of service.
What Happens With Pension Scheme Rights During Emergency Volunteering Leave?
Pension schemes will be deemed to include a provision that time spent on Emergency Volunteering Leave is treated for pension purposes in the same way as if workers were working normally. This means that the employer’s pension contributions will need to be based on workers’ normal pay; however, workers’ contributions will be based on the amount of actual pay during Emergency Volunteering Leave.
The government’s guidance is constantly being updated and I will review the content of these pages as more information becomes available.
If you have any questions please call me on 0114 360 0626 or simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Up-to-date information for individuals and employers on the spread of the coronavirus can be obtained from www.hpa.org.uk
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