Coronavirus Act: Emergency Volunteering Leave (EVL)
The Coronavirus Act 2020 (the Act) introduces a new statutory right for employees to take emergency volunteering leave to help support emergency health and social care services.
Under the Act, workers who have been approved by an appropriate authority will be entitled to take unpaid leave to act as an emergency volunteer in health or social care. An appropriate authority is a local authority, the NHS Commissioning Board or the Department of Health. The approval certificate (the emergency volunteering certificate) must specify the period over which the volunteer will be working as an emergency volunteer. The Act provides for the secretary of state to make arrangements for the payment of compensation to emergency volunteers for some loss of earnings (where relevant) and travelling and subsistence.
Certain categories of workers are exempted from the entitlement to take EVL. They include those in a workforce of less than 10, those employed in the police service and those employed by the Crown. There is a power for relevant national authorities to make regulations to extend the list of exempt workers.
How much leave may be taken?
The period of leave can be taken in blocks of two, three or four weeks in each ‘Volunteering Period’. The initial period will be 16 weeks and will begin when the legislation comes into force. That date has yet to be set. Additional 16-week periods may be introduced in due course.
To take emergency volunteering leave, workers must give their employer three working days’ notice and provide them with the emergency volunteering certificate mentioned above.
How employees will be compensated?
Those volunteering will not be entitled to paid leave, but they will be entitled to compensation for travel, subsistence and loss of earnings. We do not yet know whether it will cover volunteers’ full pay or whether there will be a limit on the amount a person is entitled to claim.
Rights of employee volunteers protected
Volunteers will have the right to return to the job in which they were employed, under no less favourable terms and conditions and with the same level they were before taking volunteering leave. During the emergency volunteering leave, workers will remain entitled to the continued application of terms and conditions of employment (save in relation to pay). Employees who take emergency volunteering leave will have the right under the Employment Rights Act 1996 (which is appropriately amended) not to be subjected to detriment or dismissal for doing so. This includes rights to pursue complaints and obtain remedies in the employment tribunal.
Employers and employees should look out for the commencement date and for further details on compensation arrangements.