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COVID-19 and emergency volunteering leave

02 April 2020

The UK Government has announced an emergency volunteering leave scheme which will allow employees and workers to be absent from work to support health and social care services during the COVID-19 outbreak.

It is understood that employees and workers will be able to take emergency volunteer leave in blocks of two, three or four weeks’ unpaid leave. Employees will have to give employers 3 working days’ notice and produce an “emergency volunteering certificate”. This can be obtained from an appropriate authority.

    Jacqueline McCluskey

  Jacqueline McCluskey

Employees and workers on emergency volunteering leave will be entitled to benefit from all of the terms and conditions (except remuneration) that would have applied if they had not been absent. They will also be entitled to return from leave on no less favourable terms and conditions. It is understood that employees and workers can only take one period of leave in each “volunteering period”, the first of which will last for 16 weeks.

It is expected that a UK-wide compensation fund will be set up to compensate those who volunteer through an appropriate authority for losses incurred, though the precise details of that are not yet known. Those working for small employers with fewer than ten staff will be excluded from the scheme.

The scheme is part of the Coronavirus Act 2020 and will require a statutory instrument to bring it into force, but that is likely to be soon. Employers should therefore familiarise themselves with the details of the scheme as soon as possible. Hopefully the statutory instrument will confirm how, in practice, the volunteering certificate can be obtained.

Contact our Specialist Employment Team if you would like to discuss any aspect of this blog.


Jacqueline McCluskey, Partner: E: / T: 0131 222 2936



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