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Coronavirus Act 2020 – Emergency Volunteering Leave

3rd April, 2020

Although the Coronavirus Act 2020 has received Royal Assent as of 25 March 2020, some sections are not yet in force.

In particular, sections 8-9 and Schedule 7 in the legislation are not yet in force, but introduce the concept of emergency volunteering leave. This has been put in place for the country’s health and social care organisations to receive additional support from suitable volunteers.

What is emergency volunteering leave and what are the eligibility requirements?

Emergency volunteering leave (‘EVL’) is an entitlement to be put on unpaid leave by an employer in order to work as a volunteer in the health or social care sector.

To qualify for EVL a worker must be issued with an Emergency Volunteering Certificate (an ‘EVL Certificate’) by an appropriate authority confirming that they have been approved as an emergency volunteer, and that they will volunteer for a specified period. A worker must then provide written notice, including the EVL Certificate to their employer at least 3 working days before the first day of the period specified in the EVL Certificate. A worker is entitled to take a set block of 2, 3 or 4 consecutive weeks of EVL during a period of 16 weeks (a ‘volunteering period’).

A worker is not eligible if their employer has a headcount of fewer than 10 staff.

There is no requirement for a worker to have any qualifying period of service with their employer to take EVL.

What about pay and benefits?

Emergency volunteers will be compensated for their loss of earnings by the state, along with travel and subsistence costs, and the employer will not need to pay them during EVL. However, the terms of the worker’s employment contract will still apply and so benefits will continue.

Other rights

The Employment Rights Act 1996 will also be amended to ensure EVL workers’ rights are protected. This includes a right to return to the same work after EVL, and so employers will need to keep their role open. Emergency volunteers will receive additional unfair dismissal protection and are protected from detriment for taking or seeking to take EVL.

Further legislation is still to be put in place before EVL obligations will come into force. If you require any advice on preparing for this development, please contact Michael Redston or Helen Watson in our Employment team.

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