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Three days’ Paid Volunteering Leave: Conservative Manifesto Pledge Updates

  • Despite Brexit, policy pledge is ‘still on the table’
  • Businesses will need to introduce a volunteering policy to become compliant
  • Concerns from the voluntary sector over implementation, and potential a ‘deluge’ of volunteers
  • Consultation to take place in 2017
  • Study finds CSR practitioners broadly in support of the plans 


The Policy | Who will Be Affected? | What Will Businesses Need to do to Become Compliant? | What’s Next? | Recent Developments | Will it work? | Further Reading

The Policy:

David Cameron initially announced plans for a mandatory three days’ paid volunteering leave at before last year’s general election on 10 April.

Obviously in the light of his departure from Number 10, there has been some question about the future of the policy; however, the Cabinet Office confirmed to Benefacto in early July that the policy was ‘still on the table’.

One of the few major initiatives to fall under Cameron’s vision for the Big Society, the policy would apply to companies over 250 employees and could see 15 million workers entitled to the three volunteering days each year (in addition to annual leave) and an extra 360 million volunteering hours a year being created.

As of March 2016, the latest news from the Cabinet Office is that it is very likely that consultation will begin on the policy during 2017; a process that will be led by the Cabinet Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Two supporting programs that have already come into being and effectively lay the ground-work for the policy are the Local Sustainability Fund and the Skills Exchange.  The LSF is a fund available to charities to help strengthen their capacity for relationships with government. Read more.

The Skills Exchange is a forum run under the CO for charities, businesses and intermediaries such as Benefacto to develop how business and the third sector can better work together.

Who will be affected by the Volunteering Leave?

Any business can support a charity, irrespective of whether the charity is eligible for the LSF or not. The Three Days’ Paid Leave has not yet been legislated, and whether this will happen will be set out by the Government  “in due course.” If it does go ahead, amendments will have to be made to Working Time regulations to give all Public Sector workers and staff of any organisation with over 250 employees the additional leave. Whether employers of private businesses back the pledge is discretionary.

What will businesses need to do to become compliant?

  1. Create a Paid Volunteering Leave policy that inspires your staff to participate. Some things to ponder are: could the three days be taken consecutively, where can employees volunteer and is there a time of year that would work best for your organisation?
  2. Find suitable volunteering opportunities. Make sure the charity you choose is a good fit for your company’s size, interests and objectives. Offer opportunities that motivate your employees. Is there are charity local to you or do your staff know of one they are passionate about?
  3. Champion volunteering. Make it part of the appraisal process – what did the employee learn from the experience and how could they feed that back into their role? Ask potential employees how they would spend the three days leave in interviews and encourage managers and directors to participate. Employees are much more likely to take Paid Volunteering Leave and gain the benefits if senior staff members are seen doing the same.

Download our 3 days volunteering survival guide

What’s next?

The Government has promised it will announce further proposals in due course. We’ll update this page as the Paid Volunteer Leave pledge develops, but the discussion to date is below:

January 2017: Consultation to begin

July 2016: Cabinet Office confirms policy plans will still go ahead, despite Brexit

March 2016: First skills exchange workshop between Skills Exchange Ambassadors is held at the Cabinet Office

March 2016: First LSF payments to be awarded to the 250 charities that have won grant aid

January 2016: At the Cabinet Office Skills Exchange Meeting on 27th January, more details were revealed about how the policy would actually take shape. Cabinet Office representatives reported that before any legislation is introduced, the department for Business, Innovation and Skills  will enter into a period of consultation of around 12 months.

November 2015: David Cameron re-stated his pledge to introduce three days of paid volunteering leave for 15 million employees. The plan has been stalled on a number of occasions but is now included in the Prime Ministers list of changes he wants to introduce before he leaves office. He also announced that the department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) would be responsible for delivering this pledge. Mr Cameron argues that the policy will create ‘better, more motivated workforce – and it’s good for our society, too’.

28 October 2015: Deadline for stage 2 applications from VCSEs applying for funding from the LSF

26 July 2015: Closing date for stage 1 applications from VCSEs applying for funding from the LSF

14 July 2015: All Party Parliamentary Group on Civil Society and Volunteering discuss the policy. Nick Hurd MP promises the change to Working Time Government will be set in this government.

25 June 2015: The Local Sustainability Fund (LSF), which will enable 250 voluntary, community and social enterprises (VCSEs) to develop the capability to build relationships with local businesses, is declared open.

25 June 2015: Communities Minister, Rob Wilson, delivers his speech confirming the government’s commitment to establish cross-sector partnerships between businesses and charities. In his speech he said: “We put at the heart of our manifesto a commitment to three days of Paid Volunteering Leave for employees in large organisations. Many companies do this already but we’ll make this a reality for more people – a new entitlement for millions which will unleash a new wave of skills, capability and passion to help others.”

8 June 2015: Financial Times suggested the plan – and Cameron’s big society more broadly – was fading again.

27 May 2015: The Queen delivers her speech, a declaration of the legislation the government intends to introduce to parliament over the next 12 month, but the Paid Volunteering Leave pledge is not mentioned

10 April 2015: Cameron pledges an additional three days’ paid leave to Public Sector workers and employees of large corporates to volunteer

Will it work?

Across the sector there is an appetite for specifics, with a few of the most salient questions being:

  1. Should the three days policy come into play, it would have the potential to create 15 million volunteers and 350 million volunteer hours. Although full uptake is extremely unlikely, charity representatives were concerned over a potential deluge of volunteers and the subsequent strain on resources.
  2. Emily Graham of the NCVO raised the issue of how the policy would work in the Public Sector. It so far unclear how the policy will work if nurses, teachers and police officers take it up.
  3. How will companies deal with the costs? In terms of lost hours, the estimated cost of the policy would around £1bn
  4. Many felt that the policy would encourage one off, ad hoc volunteering days, and suggested reframing the policy in terms of hours rather than days to facilitate the long term engagement that charities really need.
  5. There was also concern over cost, with many charities stressing that volunteering is by no means free for the beneficiaries to implement.

As our survey shows, most CSR professionals are in favour of the policy overall. However, the general feeling is that the devil was in the detail, and that the policy will need to be implemented thoughtfully and carefully to ensure that charities really benefitted from all the extra volunteering hours.

Don’t miss:

We ran a survey in Spring 16 to measure how business has reacted to the plans. The results make for interesting reading and highlights some of the challenges the policy will face.

One of the big concerns from business is the potential cost of the policy in terms of lost-time. Check out this cost calculator that quantifies the costs (and benefits) of volunteering at your organisation.

If you’re wondering about how to best prepare your organisation for the policy, download our mini White Paper.


Appendix: The Local Sustainability Fund

On October 28 2015, 400 charities  submitted their second stage applications for the Local Sustainability Fund (LSF), a pot of £20 million committed by the government to help charities forge links with local businesses. This is a significant step in Cameron’s pledge to give all Public Sector workers and employees of large corporates three days’ Paid Volunteering Leave.

The money is to help high-impact voluntary, community and social enterprises (VCSEs) develop the operational methods they would need to support mutually beneficial ongoing relationships with businesses.

In a recent letter from the Office for Civil Society to Benefacto, which addresses the issue,  a cabinet representative wrote how the “Government believes that this planned entitlement will help build stronger communities and a stronger economy by creating a more motivated and productive workforce.”

The awards were made in March 2016.


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Linz Darlington was inspired to start Benefacto when he worked as a management consultant for Accenture. With three paid days off a year to spend volunteering, he had a tough time choosing a local charity where his skills could make a real impact. These days he spends his life matching talented professionals with amazing charities. Contact Linz via linz@benefacto.org.