A bill which will give trustees the right to request unpaid time off from their jobs to carry out their trustee duties, had its first reading in the Commons last week.

The Charity Trustees (Time Off for Duties) Bill seeks to amend the Employment Rights Act 1996 to give trustees the same status in law as a number of other voluntary roles in public life, by allowing them to take a reasonable amount of time off work to discharge their duties.  Existing law states that law, school governors, local councillors, magistrates, member of health authorities or tribunals and trade union members all have a legal right to request time off from work to perform their duties – but trustees don’t.

The bill was proposed by Susan Elan Jones, the Labour MP for Clwyd South and co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Charities and Volunteering, who said that the bill would not only value existing trustees by giving them an ‘improved status in law’, but might encourage a more diverse range of people to join charity boards.

Speaking about her bill, Susan Elan Jones MP said:

“This country would fall to its knees if we didn’t have charities in our local communities. I think it’s high time the law recognised this by improving the status of charity trustees, none of whom get paid a penny for all that they do. My Bill supports existing charity trustees, and would also help more working-class people and others from under-represented backgrounds to get invaluable board-level experience.”

The 10 minute rule bill is supported by 11 more MPs, including former shadow charities minister Gareth Thomas.  These bills are typically introduced by backbench MPs in order to highlight a certain cause or issue, but they require government support in order to become law. Most backbenchers use it as a mechanism to build support in Parliament for an issue that they hope ultimately to persuade the government to include within one of their own bills at a later date. The second reading of the bill will take place on 22 March.