The Coronavirus Act 2020 sets out provisions allowing certain workers to take unpaid statutory emergency volunteering leave (“EVL”) to volunteer in the NHS and other social care settings. These volunteers need to be skilled in specific areas and are not part of the army of volunteers we discussed in our previous blog.

The Act aims to deal with two issues that might otherwise deter skilled staff from volunteering: risks to their employment and loss of pay.

To qualify for EVL, a worker must have been issued with an emergency voluntary certificate from a relevant health or social care authority. They have to provide a copy of this to their employer and give them at least three working days advance written notice of their intention to take leave to volunteer. 

EVL can be taken in periods of two, three or four consecutive weeks. The certificate will be available to those who have suitable medical or social care skills and experience.

Terms & Conditions

Whilst volunteering, workers are entitled to benefit from their terms and conditions of employment except remuneration.

Right to return

Workers have the right to return to their job on the same terms and conditions of employment as applied prior to the period of volunteering leave.

Pension Scheme Rights

Pensions schemes will be deemed to include a provision so that time spent on EVL is treated for pension purposes in the same way as if the employee was working normally. Therefore, the employer’s pension contributions will need to be based on the employee’s normal salary but employee’s pension contributions will be based on the amount of the employee’s actual pay during EVL.

Employment Rights Act 

This has been amended to give a worker the right not to suffer a detriment for taking EVL, provides for automatic unfair dismissal where the sole reason for dismissal is that an employee took EVL and provides automatic unfair dismissal where an employee is selected for redundancy due to the employee taking EVL.

Compensation

The Act also covers compensation for emergency volunteers. The Secretary of State is responsible for making arrangements to pay emergency volunteers to compensate them for any loss of earnings and subsistence costs. 

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