Statutory right to volunteer "could threaten career prospects"

A volunteering charity has warned that new plans to make time off work for volunteering a statutory right could threaten employees’ career prospects.

Communities secretary Hazel Blears wants to expand the list of volunteering activities that entitle people to time off from work to include working on probation boards and tenants groups.

Magistrates, school governors and members of health bodies or police authorities already have a statutory right to time off work.

Community Service Volunteers said courts and local authorities should work in the evenings instead of asking volunteers to take time off work.

Dame Elisabeth Hoodless, executive director of CSV, said that asking for time off in the current economic climate could jeopardise someone's career prospects, and employers should be encouraged to be more flexible.

She added: "Mutually agreed flexibility can often produce better results than statutory requirements.

"If we are to widen citizenship participation, it would be helpful if health and housing authorities were to hold their meetings in the evenings or even the weekends."

Staff at the Communities and Local Government department are currently granted three days a year to work for charities or community projects that have aims in line with the department's agenda.

A government consultation is under way on proposals made in a white paper, Communities in Control: real people, real power, published in July.

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