Volunteering Leave

David Cameron recently confirmed plans announced last year that employees would be given a new right to take time off work to carry out volunteering activities. Under current plans, all public sector employers, and all private sector employers with 250 or more employees will be affected. Three days’ leave will be made available to employees and they will be entitled to full pay for the days they take off to volunteer. The Working Time Regulations 1998 – the law which gives employees a right to take a minimum amount of annual leave – will be amended to give employees three extra paid days off on top of their current annual leave entitlement so that they can become involved in some charity work. It will not be an obligation on employees to undertake volunteering activities; the leave will be there for them to take if they choose to. The precise scope of this new right is yet to be divulged by the Government but it is likely that employers will be able to set the parameters around the employee’s right to take leave, as they currently can with annual leave. Issues such as the potential option to pro-rata the 3 day entitlement for part time employees, and what happens when an employee joins the organisation part way through the year are yet to be determined. Many large employers already have a volunteering policy and, when more details on the new statutory right are known on, these policies will need to be reviewed to ensure compliance with the legal minimums. It would be worth having a look now to see if policies already offer at least 3 paid days’ leave. If not, it is not currently a problem but when the law is changed, the policy will need to be too. If you do not have a volunteering or charity work policy already, consider now which charity or charities you would like to support – it is likely that employers will be able to designate a particular charity for whom all employees who chose to take volunteering days must help. Affiliations with charities are an important element for any business with a strong corporate social responsibility ethic. It is expected that a Government consultation on the introduction of paid volunteering leave will be held in 2017, meaning that, if the plans are to go ahead, it will likely be October 2017 at the earliest before the new right comes in.

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