The Emergency Volunteering Scheme (EVL), a scheme introduced as part of the Coronavirus Act (March 25, 2020), is a statute enacted to help support the National Health Service (NHS) and social care authorities during these times of crisis.
It gives workers a temporary right to statutory emergency volunteering leave so that they can take unpaid leave to help volunteer in the health and social care sectors during this challenging time.
Within 24 hours of EVL scheme going live, there had been over half a million people sign up.
The EVL is a scheme that anybody can apply for; however, for workers to obtain volunteer status they must receive permission from their employer.
Once a worker has received permission from their employer, the worker is then permitted to be absent, on EVL, for the period specified in an emergency volunteering certificate.
For permission to be granted workers must
- (i) inform employers in writing of their intention to be absent from work on leave for the period set out in the emergency volunteering certificate
- (ii) Provide employers with a copy of the certificate
If a worker has received permission, they may only be absent, on EVL, for the period specified in an emergency volunteering certificate.
What is an Emergency Volunteering Certificate?
The Emergency Volunteering Certificate is a document issued by an appropriate authority (such as a local authority or NHS Commissioning Board).
The document is used to certify the following:
- (i) the worker has been approved by the authority as an emergency volunteer in health or social care
- (ii)the worker will be acting as an emergency volunteer in health or social care from the date, and for the period, specified in the certificate
How long can workers be absent?
Workers will be able to take EVL in blocks of 2, 3, or 4 weeks every volunteering period – which is a period of 16 weeks. You can only volunteer for the duration of one block per 16-week period. This means that the maximum volunteer time is four weeks per 16-week period.
However, if after the initial 16-week period, a new 16-week volunteering period begins, it is possible that one could volunteer for 8 consecutive weeks – i.e. 4 weeks at the end of the initial 16-week period, and 4 weeks at the beginning of the new period. However, in the case of a worker, this would be still subject to the approval of employers.
Are all workers entitled to request EVL?
The right to EVL does not apply for workers employed by a business which employs less than 10 people.
What entitlements do employees have if they are on EVL?
Whilst on EVL, employees are not entitled to wages or salary. However, they will still be entitled to benefit from and be obligated under all other terms and conditions of their employment which would have applied had they not been absent.
Once the employee has completed their period on EVL they are entitled to return to the same job.
The Coronavirus Act states
- (i) an employees seniority, pension and similar rights should remain as if the employee had not been absent.
- (ii) employees should not have to suffer from less favourable terms and conditions than they would have if they had not opted to volunteer.
Protection given to emergency volunteers
The Employment Rights Act has been amended to include 3 new sections:
- 47H Employees are protected against suffering any detriment that might arise if they have taken EVL or if the employer believes they are likely to take it
- 104H – dismissal where the principal reason for dismissal is that an employee took EVL or their employer believes they are likely to do so, is an automatic unfair dismissal
- 105(7BC), providing for automatic unfair dismissal where an employee is selected for redundancy due to the employee taking EVL or because their employer believed they would take EVL
Compensation for breach is uncapped and requires no qualifying service.
Employers do not have to pay employees on in the period of EVL. However, the employee may submit a claim to the government for:
- Loss of earnings
- Travel expenses and subsistence
Further details outlining how EVL will work in practice are expected in due course.
If you’re an employer that needs support or advice on handling EVL requests from your employees, then our HR consultants are on hand to help.
Call us today on 0845 2626 260 for further information about this service.