About 15 million workers would be allowed to take three days paid leave to volunteer if the Conservatives were to win the election, the party pledged today.
Every employee of a company with more than 250 staff and every public sector worker would be entitled to the leave.
Full-time workers are entitled to 28 days of paid leave a year, including bank holidays, but the Conservatives’ proposal would add an additional three days for volunteering.
The party said that workers could use their leave to assist charities or serve as a school governors, for example. The Conservatives estimated that this would create an extra 360 million volunteering hours a year.
According to research by the Charities Aid Foundation, published in January, 41 per cent of workers said they would give more time or money to charity if their employers gave them more opportunities to do so.
Last year, the cross-party parliamentary inquiry Growing Giving called for businesses to develop plans to get more people involved in workplace giving.
A spokesman for the Conservative Party told Third Sector that there would be no "direct cost to the public purse".
David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said in a statement that the pledge was a double win: "It’s good for our economy because it will help to create a better, more motivated workforce. And it’s good for our society, too, because it will strengthen communities and the bonds between us."
The pledge has been welcomed broadly by the voluntary sector.
Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said in a statement: "This is an exciting proposal that would be good news for charities and for businesses.
"Many charities urgently need more volunteers to support their work, while volunteering is an excellent way for employees to develop skills and confidence that will benefit their employers."
John Low, chief executive of CAF, said in a statement: "Charities across Britain rely on the dedication and determination of volunteers to make a difference, and action designed to get more people involved in volunteering should be applauded."
But Helen Walker, chief executive of the national volunteering charity TimeBank, said in a statement that it was important to recognise that "volunteering isn’t free". She said: "Charities invest substantial resources in volunteering – and this at a time when the voluntary sector is being called upon to do a great deal more with a great deal less. The existing national volunteering infrastructure has to be recognised and supported by government if it is to deliver its full potential."