Conservatives Reveal Paid Volunteering Proposals

New Plans For Public Sector And Large Firms To Offer Leave For Community Work

10.04.2015

New Conservative proposals which would see the public sector and large companies offer workers three days of paid leave a year for volunteering may only serve to formalise provisions that many firms already have in place, according to specialist employment lawyers.

The measures, which would affect the public sector and firms with more than 250 members of staff, have been announced as part of the ongoing election campaign.

Speaking to Radio 4’s Today programme, communities secretary Eric Pickles said the aim was to ensure employers have an “engaged workforce” who are “putting something back into society.

Labour however stated that the plans were a “re-announcement” of a policy proposed in 2008, while the Confederation of British Industry said such a policy would be a “win-win for everyone concerned”.

According to specialist employment lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, the proposal is likely to be seen by many as positive, although questions may be raised as to its effectiveness.

Expert Opinion
It is unsurprising to see employment becoming a key battleground in the run-up to the election, with news of this proposed policy coming shortly after the open letter of support from business leaders for the Conservatives and Labour announcing its proposal to abolish tribunal fees.

"One of the key questions with this proposal is ‘will it really make any difference’ and increase current levels of volunteering, particularly with the suggestion that firms would be able to opt out if they feel it could cause issues for them.

"In addition is such a step necessary when many large companies already have corporate and social responsibility policies in place that include paid volunteering leave? Many businesses see this as core to highlighting their support for the communities where they are based, as well as an opportunity to ‘give something back’ to those in their areas.

"With this in mind, putting a law in place would only serve to formalise what in many cases already exists."
Kirsty Ayre, Partner