Emergency Volunteering Leave – what are your rights?

Last night the majority of us stood outside our homes clapping for all the brave men and women who are working on the front line caring for the people who are affected by this terrible disease, COVID19.

A significant number of people have signed up to be volunteers to help the NHS and social care services, but what are your rights if you are a worker in an organisation that wants to take a leave of absence?

The Coronavirus Act 2020 is now in force and makes provision for workers to take  emergency leave from their employment to volunteer to help the essential care services.

A volunteering period takes place during a block of 16 weeks and an eligible worker may take one period of two, three or four weeks leave in any 16 week period.  The provisions do not apply to employers with less than 10 employees or the civil service.

Although the leave is unpaid as far as the employer is concerned, the proposed regulations appear to suggest that the government will compensate a worker for any loss of earnings and travel costs.

If an employee wants to volunteer they must give their employer three working days’ notice in writing and produce an emergency leave certificate from a relevant health or social care authority proving that they have signed up to be a volunteer.  Employers are unable to refuse this request for business reasons.

All of the worker’s employment rights are protected and the contract of employment still continues. If anyone is dismissed because they have requested this leave then it will be deemed automatically unfair.  It is difficult to believe any company would dismiss an employee taking a leave of absence for this reason.

We are now waiting for the relevant statutory regulations to bring this new right into force and also to provide details of how employees who take volunteering leave will be compensated.

In the meantime, a request by a worker to volunteer under these provisions should not prevent this individual being furloughed in the meantime where this is necessary for a business to survive.

The recent guidance issued by HMRC makes clear that an individual can volunteer even when they are on furlough leave.

If you want to get involved, you meet the criteria as a worker, you have given the appropriate notice to your employer and you have a relevant volunteering certificate then it could be time to make a difference.

To speak with Jane directly about this or any other employment-related matter, please email JZC@hartbrown.co.uk or call 01483 887766.

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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Jane Crosby

Partner, Head of Dispute Resolution & Accredited Mediator

Jane is a Partner based in the Guildford office and she is also Head of the Dispute Resolution team here at Hart Brown. Jane specialises...

Partner, Head of Dispute Resolution & Accredited Mediator

Jane Crosby

Jane is a Partner based in the Guildford office and she is also Head of the Dispute Resolution team here at Hart Brown. Jane specialises in employment Law and commercial litigation and brings more than 15 years' experience to her role.

Prior to entering the legal profession, Jane was employed in the aviation industry. This experience is appreciated by many of Jane's clients who note that she is able to take a commercial and pragmatic approach to any legal issue that they face.

Jane acts for a wide range of individuals and businesses and her areas of specialism include aviation, property related industries and IT. Jane regularly advises on aspects of employment law, such as settlement agreements, employment contracts, policies and procedures, redundancies, equal pay, data protection, issues arising from TUPE and reorganisations, the calculation of holiday pay, bonus and commission payments, disciplinary and grievance issues, dismissal and termination issues, the protection of confidential information and the enforcement of restrictive covenants. Jane gets involved in GDPR training for her clients and she is able to deliver tailored employment law training sessions upon request.

As a commercial litigation lawyer, Jane also deals in shareholder and directors disputes, commercial contract disputes and the enforcement of restrictive covenants.

Jane has been involved in successful high value commercial litigation for clients in the High Courts, she is an accredited mediator and she is a member of the Employment Lawyers Association.

Jane is often asked to write for a number of well known publications, including The Daily Mail, The Telegraph and The Week and she has been interviewed on BBC Radio 4.

Here is small selection of the feedback that Jane has received:

“Jane, I cannot sincerely thank you enough for your wise counsel and am delighted to have made your acquaintance. If I am blessed with a new position somewhere I will hand over my contract in the first instance to you. Likewise, any of my friends, peers, romans and countrymen wanting advice, I will point them in your direction.”

“Jane, you have been most resilient on my behalf for which I sincerely thank you for all your endeavours. I have a tremendous working relationship with Hart Brown and you have undoubtedly compounded this further."

“I appreciated the clarity of advice given at a stressful time”.

“A sensitive and highly professional approach and efficient work in the interests of the client”.

“Your advice, conduct and assistance have been indeed outstanding and very professional but also – and most importantly – very humane”.