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A new legislation called the Coronavirus Act 2020 (the‘Act’) has been put in place for the next two years. This Act gives workers a statutory right to take unpaid ‘emergency volunteering leave’ in order to become a NHS Volunteer Responder to help vulnerable people stay safe and well at home.

What is emergency volunteering leave under the Act?
Emergency volunteering leave (EVL), is when a worker is entitled to take a period of leave of 2, 3 or 4 consecutive week ‘blocks’ taken in any 16-week period so that they can become a NHS Volunteer Responder and provide greater support to the NHS.

Who is entitled to take emergency volunteering leave?
In order to be eligible for EVL, the worker has to be certified by an ‘appropriate authority’ (a local authority, the NHS Commissioning Board or the Department of Health) to act as an emergency volunteer in health or social care.

What is the process?
If you wish to take EVL you must give your employer at least 3 working days’ notice and produce the certificate issued by the appropriate authority.

Will the worker be paid whilst on EVL?
There is no obligation for an employer to pay the worker their wages during such period. A claim to the government for compensation in respect of loss of earnings, travel costs and subsistence expenses can be made by the worker.

How will this affect employers?
Employers must not refuse the worker’s request to take EVL, unless the employer has less than 10 workers. The Employer must not treat the worker differently as a result of the person taking EVL. The worker undertaking EVL will remain employed by their employer and are entitled to the usual benefits of their employment (except pay). The worker will be entitled to return to the job in which the worker was employed prior to their absence. They have the right to return on no less favourable terms and conditions than was the case before the worker undertook a period of EVL.

An employee can bring a claim for automatic unfair dismissal if they are dismissed for taking EVL. .The employee does not need any qualifying service to bring a claim for automatic unfair dismissal and the statutory cap to the compensatory award does not apply.

To register as a NHS Volunteer Responder, please visit www.goodsamapp.org/NHS