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.