Important new volunteering rights for workers
Apart from changing the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) scheme, the Coronavirus Act 2020 has introduced an important new right to emergency volunteering leave for workers.
At the time of writing (2 April 2020) the NHS has closed applications, having already received 750,000. However, your local council may be able to help, so you should contact them direct if you are interested in volunteering.
What are the new emergency volunteering leave rules?
Under the new rules, workers can apply for unpaid emergency volunteering. Provided they have the right certificate, their employer is large enough, and they don’t work in one of the excluded jobs, this cannot be refused by their employer.
The employee only has to give 3 days’ notice in writing. Written notice needs to take the form of an emergency volunteering certificate, which can be issued by Department of Health, the NHS or a local council.
Who can apply for emergency volunteering leave?
All workers (this can include people who are not strictly PAYE employees) are entitled to the leave except those who work in a company with fewer than 10 employees or are employed in select positions, e.g. civil servants, legislators and police officers.
How much time can be taken as emergency volunteering leave?
The period of time taken has to be in blocks of 2, 3 or 4 weeks in any 16-week period. This allows for a continuous period of absence of up to 8 weeks in any 32-week period.
Do employers have to let their staff take emergency volunteering leave?
Employers cannot refuse a valid request, even if their business will suffer as a result.
What staff benefits will apply during emergency volunteering leave?
Emergency volunteers will not be entitled to any pay. However, it seems likely that they will continue to be eligible for other benefits such as annual leave, pension, health insurance, company car etc.
What other rights do emergency volunteers have?
Emergency volunteers have a right to return to their job when they have finished volunteering.
Workers also have the right not to be subjected to a detriment or dismissed because they have taken emergency volunteering leave.
How can I apply for an emergency volunteering certificate?
The NHS website is a good place to start. Alternatively, contact your local council.