The Coronavirus Act 2020 which came into force on 25 March 2020 introduced the statutory right to Emergency Volunteering Leave which allows workers to take unpaid leave to volunteer to support the NHS and social care sectors during the Covid-19 crisis. The Government has designated an initial 16 week volunteering period but they may extend this further if required.
Who is entitled to apply for leave?
All workers are entitled to apply for leave unless they work for a small employer (less than 10 employees), are civil servants, work for the Legislature or are police officers.
What is the process for taking leave?
The worker must give at least three working days’ notice to the employer. The notice must be in writing and specify that they intend to be absent from work on leave for the period specified and the notice must be accompanied by an Emergency Volunteering Certificate. The Certificate confirms the worker as an emergency volunteer and can be obtained from the Department of Health, the relevant NHS Commissioning body or a Borough/County Council, as appropriate.
How long can the leave last for?
The period of leave must be taken in blocks of 2 weeks, 3 weeks or 4 weeks duration in any 16 week volunteering period. The period of leave must begin and end in the same volunteering period. A worker can only be absent on leave once in any given volunteering period.
Will the workers be paid whilst on leave?
The worker will not receive any wages or salary during leave but remain entitled to the benefit of all of their terms and conditions of employment which would have applied had they not been absent, to include their pension.
What happens at the end of the volunteering period?
An employee who returns to work after a period of emergency volunteering leave is entitled to return from leave to the job in which they were employed before the absence. This is with the employee’s seniority, pension and similar rights as they would have been had the employee not been absent; and on terms and conditions no less favourable than those which would have applied if the employee had not been absent.
Are employees protected from detriment/dismissal as a result of applying for/taking leave?
A new section has been inserted into the Employment Rights Act 1996 to make it unlawful for a worker to be subjected to a detriment by the employer on the grounds that they proposed to take or take emergency volunteering leave. In the event, a worker is an employee and is dismissed and the principle reason is that they have taken or proposed to take emergency volunteering leave, the employee can bring a claim for automatically unfair dismissal. The employee does not need any qualifying service to bring a claim for automatically unfair dismissal and the statutory cap to the compensatory award does not apply.
If you have any questions about your employment rights if you should take Emergency Volunteering leave, call our employment team on 0161 672 1246 or fill in the contact form and we will be in touch.