Coronavirus Bill, LAs and the right to emergency volunteering leave

March 21st, 2020

Cl 7 of the Coronavirus Bill gives effect to Schedule 6 –  provisions about a new right to emergency volunteering leave (“EVL”).

Under Schedule 6, a worker is entitled to be absent from work for the period specified in an emergency volunteering certificate (“EVC”) if, no later than 3 days before the first day of the period specified in the EVC, the worker gives notice to their employer of their intention to be absent for the period stated in the EVC.   The EVC may specify two, three or four consecutive weeks within a single volunteering period.  A volunteering period is the period of 16 weeks after the right under the Bill comes into force and each period of 16 weeks thereafter, unless shortened by the Secretary of State in regulations.  A worker may take EVL only once in the same volunteering period.  If a worker takes EVL, they have the right to return to their job, and not to suffer detriment as a result.  Dismissal by reason of EVL is automatically unfair.  Under cl 8 SoS must establish a scheme to compensate volunteers for lost income and expenses incurred.

LAs are given an important role.  The EVC is a document issued by “an appropriate authority”, a category which includes the Secretary of State, the NHS Commissioning Board, and local authorities – county councils, district councils where there is no county council, London boroughs and the City.

The EVC certifies that the worker has been approved by the appropriate authority as an emergency volunteer in health or social care.

The Government’s document “Coronavirus Bill – Summary of Impacts” tells us what the Government’s expectation of LAs is likely to be. It says:-

“Impact on Local Authorities – the policy requires LAs across the UK to identify volunteer social care opportunities and to match these opportunities to volunteers coming forward. This may add additional burdens to the work that LAs are doing in response to the outbreak. HM Government will provide detailed guidance for LAs to follow and will design a simple system in collaboration with them that is easy to administer. Additional funding may also be required.”

Peter Oldham QC

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