The Time Off for Public Duties Order 2018 has been laid before Parliament and will come into force on 1 October 2018. The Order amends section 50 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 so as to grant unpaid time off work to four groups of volunteers in the criminal justice system, who all monitor conditions of those in custody. Currently, employers are not obliged to grant time off work to these volunteers so that they can perform their public duties.
The four groups of volunteers are:
- Independent prison monitors in Scotland appointed under the Prisons (Scotland) Act 1989 (the equivalent body for England and Wales is already included in the time off work provisions in section 50)
- A panel of lay observers appointed under the Criminal Justice Act 1991 – these are volunteers who monitor conditions for prisoners under escort and in court custody (lay observers only exist in England and Wales and they do not exist or operate in Scotland)
- Visiting Committees for the immigration and detention estate appointed under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 for England, Wales and Scotland – these are commonly referred to as Independent Monitoring Boards and they consist of volunteers who monitor the immigration detention estate
- Visiting Committees appointed by the Secretary of State for short-term holding facilities under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.