Are employees entitled to take time off to perform voluntary work for a public organisation such as a school, hostel or hospital?

An employee's entitlement to time off to perform voluntary work for a public organisation depends on whether or not that voluntary work constitutes a public duty under s.50 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (see Quick reference > Time off for public duties).

Some voluntary work that might at first glance appear to amount to a "public duty" is not covered by the Act, even if it is performed for one of the public bodies listed in it. To enjoy the entitlement to take time off, an employee must be a "member" of a relevant body and need the time off for one of the specific purposes listed in s.50 of the Act (for example to attend meetings).

Voluntary work that falls outside s.50 (for example, work helping in a classroom, local authority residential home, hospital shop or hostel kitchen) is not covered and employees have no statutory right to time off to carry out this type of work. However, some employers grant time off under a volunteer policy (see Policies and documents > Policy on supporting employees doing volunteer work).