MP to introduce bill giving trustees the right to time off work

Labour's Susan Elan Jones tells parliament she will bring in a 10-minute rule bill on 6 March

Susan Elan Jones (Photograph: Chris McAndrew)
Susan Elan Jones (Photograph: Chris McAndrew)

Trustees could be given the right to unpaid time off to perform their duties if a new bill being put before parliament next month passes into law.

In a debate in parliament this week about charities and voluntary action, Susan Elan Jones, the Labour MP for Clwyd South and co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Charities and Volunteering, said she would introduce a 10-minute rule bill on 6 March that would give trustees the right to take time off.

Ten-minute rule bills are typically introduced by backbench MPs in order to highlight a certain cause or issue, but the majority do not gain sufficient support in parliament to become law.

Under existing law, trustees are not among the professions that are entitled to "reasonable" time off to perform their duties.

School governors, local councillors, magistrates, members of health authorities or tribunals and trade union members are among those who have a legal right to take time off to perform their duties.

The time off can be unpaid and must be agreed beforehand between the employer and employee, depending on the amount of time off required and the potential impact on the business.

Elan Jones told parliament that the bill would bring trustees in line with other significant voluntary roles in public life.

"According to the Charity Commission, at least 100,000 new trustees are appointed every year," Elan Jones said.

"I think it is time to give them a status in law similar to that of school governors, local councillors, magistrates and those in other categories when it comes to time off for their duties – unpaid time off."

Mims Davies, the Minister for Civil Society, said in Wednesday’s debate that it was "vital" to discuss the challenges faced by unpaid trustees, and agreed to meet Elan Jones for further discussion.

The idea has been proposed before, with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations supporting the idea in its submission to the Citizenship and Civic Engagement Committee last year.

The NCVO said then that allowing time off would simply need an amendment to section 50 of the Employment Rights Act, and would help to increase diversity among charity trustees.

The House of Lords committee on charities also backed the idea in its final report in 2017, and said it would help increase "experience and knowledge" on charity boards.

The report said that government should hold a public consultation "on introducing a statutory duty to allow employees of organisations over a certain size to take a limited amount of time off work to perform trustee roles".

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