Health and Safety considerations

Dear all,

I am putting together guidance for volunteers active in archaeological investigations, and it has been pointed out to me that the document ought to summarise the key Health and Safety differences between paid and volunteer work, and discuss what issues arise in instances of mixed teams of paid professionals and volunteers.

I am aware of the document below from Volunteering England which discusses H&S for volunteers, but wondered if anyone could recommend any other information or resources, particularly for other parts of the UK since the guidance I am writing will be UK-wide in focus?

It may well be the case that legally there isn’t that much difference (although I do know that types of insurance cover preclude volunteers from some commercial archaeological work), but it’s not an area with which I am familiar (I haven’t looked at H&S legislation in a while and haven’t worked in the field for 10 years!), so really any pointers from more experienced volunteer managers that have had to deal with health and safety managers greatly appreciated here – although I do appreciate there is probably an ideological debate waiting to happen lurking in here as well 😉

An operation is undertaken either safely or not and we ensure our policies and practices with regard to H&S don’t draw any distinction between staff and volunteers. Whilst there is a distinction in law good practice, we believe, means all people undertaking activities for you should be following the same health and safety practices to both ensure their safety and that of others. Obviously H&S needs to be applied sensible and realistically to operations and not seen as a barrier to doing things but a route to undertaking activities safely.

I also think it’s worth thinking about stress and H&S – in terms of the implications of stress for/on volunteers, not the stress that you might be experiencing by sorting out H&S for volunteers 🙂 . It’s often over-looked, including during risk assessments, and lots of organisations don’t really understand or think about their duty of care to volunteers when it comes to stress.

Just to be clear

Just to be clear, I’m not saying we must adopt the word credentialing. I’m not a big fan of it myself. However, in the global context that we publish e-Volunteerism in we have to use language that works around the globe. To use the word qualifications outside the UK would, in many cases, give the debate a totally different meaning.

However, what we call it is not the most important issue as Lynne rightly points out. What is important in the context of my post is that we have a good debate about the issues.

It’d be great to have UK volunteer managers involved in this. So far we’ve had a good response from the USA, New Zealand and Australia but none from the UK.

If you are interested in having a say on this important issue then please contact me

The usual UK term used to be “formal qualifications”

the usual UK term used to be “formal qualifications” or “accredited qualifications” didn’t it? Whilst I’m perfectly comfortabble that all languages are constantly evolving, I also feel strongly about plain English and have a gut reaction to particularly ugly new words…

Anyway, more importantly, whilst I totally accept that qualifications are one way to increase the status of the volunteer manager’s role, I suspect most of us in those roles would never have got into the profession if we’d had to have formal qualifications specifically in that role before starting.

On a seperate note, I have the feeling that it amy be as much about qualities as skills when you bring the term “good” into a management role. Know that may sound too fluffy for some, but I think in reality that is how good people are actually chosen for the job, or succeed at it, as much as for skills and experience. And its probably the downfall of bad managers?!

I also wonder if a large number of good or successful volunteer managers can be defined by their ability to manage an incredibly diverse team. I doubt that there are many commercial or statutory roles where a large percentage of the workforce have additional needs, or where such a large focus (often 50%, or sometimes worryingly 80%) of their time is invested in their staff’s development support. Although this clearly varies depending on the type of charity and volunteer role, a very high percentage are surely older, younger, survivors of trauma, addictions or health issues, long-term unemployed, etc etc than a typical commercial or statutory workforce? The flexibility, motivational style, emotional and practical supportiveness of a good volunteer manager seem to me defining qualities – not sure how easily these would be “credentialable”?

Do you know someone who’s campaigned tirelessly

Hello! Do you know someone who’s campaigned tirelessly to protect a patch of green space? What about someone who inspires others to do something for nature? Do you work with groups that have made lots of noise to champion green spaces and places? If so, they could be a candidate for the new National Trust Octavia Hill awards. These new awards are named after Octavia Hill, a Victorian social reformer and one of the National Trusts founders, who set the standard in campaigning for green places.

Octavia Hill died in 1912, and to mark this centenary we’re launching these awards, in partnership with Countryfile Magazine, to celebrate individuals and groups (volunteers and paid staff) that are keeping her legacy alive.

For full details, including how to nominate a group or individual, see—her-life-and-legacy. Please feel free to pass this information on to other organisations individuals who you think will find it of interest. Best wishes.

Age UK held its first EYV 2011 conference last week, which looked at the benefits and barriers to involving older volunteers and involving older people in the localism agenda through volunteering.

Continuing our programme of EYV2011 activity we now have details of our other work.

Firstly, on 2nd December we will be holding our second conference in Rotherham. This will be focusing on: the evidence of the value of volunteering in later life, a Health Commissioner’s perspective on the opportunities volunteering provides, and volunteering and our civic society.

Secondly, we are compiling a guide to volunteer roles that support the health and social care needs of older people. The aim of the publication is to enable organisations to understand the many ways in which volunteers can support older people and how they can set up similar volunteering programmes. To do this, we need examples of volunteer roles from across the volunteering sector, that reflect the wide diversity of volunteering that supports older people. Deadline for submission is 9th December.

And finally, we are holding an Awards scheme and Celebration event in a partnership with UKLoanCity – online company related to short-term loans. The awards are recognising the excellence of volunteers’ contribution to delivering health and social care services for older people. Deadline for nominations are 5th December.

All the relevant documents, guidance and nomination on our website or our ivolunteer group

If you are/were unable to come to either conference, we will be giving people the opportunity to feed in their thoughts before we publish our conference report.

I don’t see the for-profit element causing a problem at all

Social enterprise – making a profit to invest in good causes – is nothing new. Charities (and others) have been doing it for years. All charity retail is effectively a social enterprise and you could argue that fundraising is too. That’s why the term non-profit is so wrong in my view. Profit is fine, its what you do with it that defines if you are a business (as my company is) or something else.

So, as charity shop and fundraising volunteers would have access to free CRB check (if they needed to have them) I don’t see why Social enterprise volunteers would be different.

I hope that’s some help.

PS – we always encourage people to state their organisation and role (assuming they have these) in their email signatures. It helps with us knowing who we all are in the group.

Although the CRB does not charge a fee for volunteers, CRB check forms have to be processed by an Umbrella Body. Most Umbrella Bodies do charge for processing all applications for CRB check, even for volunteers. The charges vary quite widely from one Umbrella Body to another.

I think that the setting is not entirely relevant, good practice is good practice, there are businesses that involve volunteers such as private care homes etc – a social enterprise will have more in common with other volunteer involving agencies and you are certainly eligible to join the Association of Volunteer Managers (see and use and contribute to the good practice Wiki as well as looking at other volunteer manager sources and adopt their good practice measures

Echoing several points made already, social enterprises using their profits for charitable purposes are doing so as a fundraising activity, so the volunteers need to be engaged on that basis – they need to buy into the aims of the charity, so they are keen to raise funds for its activities.

They are fundraising volunteers. Good practice is good practice (as Debbie said) and enthusing those volunteers to raise funds is the important thing.

Ensuring their voice is heard, they feel part of a good project, the skills/ experience they are looking to gain are included in the design of the project, and that they know the reason why they are raising the funds are all important elements.

The use of or need for CRB disclosures and their costs is a completely different component of involving volunteers in Social Enterprise, and the costs and rules around that components are discussed *ad nausium,* but it shouldn’t be necessary to pay more than 10 for the admin to process one and no volunteer should be asked to pay for it.

Volunteer Now the organisation that I work for is currently developing an information sheet around the role of volunteers within social enterprises. The aim of it is to raise awareness of the contribution of volunteers in this sector but also to highlight volunteer management good practice that leaders of social enterprises could benefit from. Our very rapid review of literature shows a lack of information / literature on volunteering within social enterprises and from speaking to a small number of social enterprises, we are finding that the enterprises that involve volunteers are not seeking support from the volunteering infrastructure, mainly because they are not seeing the link rather than it being an informed choice.

Involvement in Social Enterprises


I am interested in your experiences of volunteer involvement within social enterprises. I am particularly interested in good practice around volunteer recruitment, support and management.

There seems to be a grey area around whether volunteers in a social enterprise get free police checks? I think the fact that the business is profit making might be causing confusion. Also I am interested in how the relationship between paid staff and volunteers are managed, especially when a volunteer led enterprise starts to take on paid staff.

I know that alot of the existing volunteer management good practice holds within a social enterprise setting but the fact that the business is profit making (albeit profit that is going back into the business which is for social benefit)muddies the water.

Any experiences / experienced good practice advice would be appreciated.

eBay Volunteers

Hello All,

I am exploring the possibility of a new volunteer role and I am interested in hearing from anyone who has had experience of involving volunteers to sell items on eBay.

Approaching it from the perspective of a library service rather than a retail based organization I would like to hear from anyone who has specific knowledge but any experience of writing a role description, what is successful (or not) and any anecdotal experiences you might want to share would be gratefully received.

I look forward to reading your responses.

Passport scheme – Derbyshire

In Derbyshire, “hundreds of volunteers” have signed up for the Derbyshire County Council’s “Volunteer Passport scheme”.

“Volunteers who successfully complete the course receive their Volunteer Passport which includes a nationally-accredited certificate and a Volunteer Passport ID badge..”

I’m intrigued by this idea. Will it lead to more volunteers (a streamlined way to be screened, trained and approved – hurrah!) or less volunteers (more bureaucracy – dang it!).


We are delivering our final webinar broadcast

webinarWe are delivering our final webinar broadcast for the year as part of the EYV11 project (although rest assured the sessions will continue in 2012, starting again in February). Thank you to all of you who have participated in the webinars and for the feedback we are continuing to receive about the innovative ways you are using these resources individually and locally to help develop the profession. Watch this space for details of how you will be able to access all the resources from the EYV11 Volunteer Management project, coming very soon!

In this next session, we are focusing on ‘Making a Noise’ and asking What do Volunteer Managers need from Leaders and Decision Makers?

Featuring lots of debate and discussion, plus an opportunity for you to feed in your thoughts and views which will form part of our report and recommendations to the Cabinet Office as we sign off our work through the European Year of Volunteering.

Follow the link to read more and sign up for free – we look forward to hearing from you!

Sorry about the late posting

Sorry about the late posting but in case anyone wants to apply by 5pm today for The Switch project co-ordinator role

Fixed-term contract: Until December 2019
Salary: £25,750 pa

TimeBank is a national volunteering charity that runs volunteering projects which are designed to tackle social issues head on, from social exclusion to digital inclusion.

They are looking for a project manager for a new pilot project, The Switch which will support young people primarily in South London who are making the often difficult transition from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) to adult services.

Please note that CVs will not be accepted.

All details on the TimeBank website including JD, application form etc.

Volunteers – car insurance

Morning, everyone!

This somewhat wide-ranging article was on Yahoo:

Just the sort of thing to deter a prospective volunteer. But has anyone come across being a volunteer per se affecting premiums/claims, as cited by the article?

Thank you so much for sharing this article, Anne. It is highly disturbing and deserves wide attention.

I have not heard of this happening in the U.S., but am going to check into it because it may well be one of those insidious hidden insurance traps here, too. Americans have been fighting the charitable vs. business driving battle in a different way: the income tax deduction for auto business miles is $.52 but it is only $.14 for charitable driving! (There are dumb reasons for this, which I explain in a 2008 Hot Topic at The real problem comes in, however, if an organization reimburses a volunteer more than 14 cents a mile: the volunteer is liable for income tax on the extra amount!! Not that anyone reports this, but it could come out in an audit.

Yes, and our politicians also love volunteering.

In a previous job I did come across insurers charging a higher premium if someone volunteered whilst driving their own car. This was mainly a consequence of such usage being classed as ‘business’. It has also been good practice for a long time to ensure volunteers notify their insurers if they use their own car whilst volunteering as non-disclosure could void insurance, for example if they ended up using social domestic and pleasure insurance for business purposes in the eyes of the insurer. That could then lead to criminal charges for failing to drive without valid insurance.

The additional premiums issue should be resolved by the agreement mentioned in the article, something VE lobbied hard for.

However, what’s new here is that doing voluntary work, but not using your car, could invalidate insurance if the insurer isn’t told because the person would be in the wrong category of occupation.

This seems rather OTT to me and, as the author points out, when does someone’s occupation change because of their volunteering?

Perhaps another one for VE to address and possible for VE, AVM etc. to raise with the OCS regarding their desire to cut red tape in volunteering?

I’ve just been to an England Volunteering Development Council meeting and the Volunteering England Policy team have indeed picked up on this story today and I believe have contacted the insurer for a statement. Following August’s agreement with the Association of British Insurers (ABI) there is also a continued working group of representatives from the Voluntary and Community Sector who are continuing to meet with ABI to iron out other insurance issues that can/do affect us. The Policy team at VE have the details of who is leading the group and how to contribute any issues you wish to raise.

Even though many insurers made the commitment to cover voluntary work they do need to be informed (better but not great). There is a good VE form to provide for potential volunteers to send to their insurers.

Despite this I have encountered two instances in the last 6 months in which insurers have said that there would be an additional cost to cover volunteer activity. This in itself might risk putting volunteers off but if anyone else experiences this you might want to cite these as examples. The first volunteer changed their insurer and ended up paying less for more cover and the second cancelled and restarted their policy with the same insurer (ridiculous in itself) but received M&S vouchers for their trouble. Not ideal I realise but these examples might stop a potential volunteer from being dissuaded before hopefully common sense prevails.

Launch of advocacy report on volunteering in emergencies

Dear all

Just a brief note to draw your attention to the report launched by the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) today on volunteering in emergencies at the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross. The Conference brings together national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies with states parties to the Geneva Convetntions. Volunteering is one of the main themes of the Conference.

The report raises a number of issues relating to all volunteers working in emergency situations, and calls on governments attending the International Conference to protect, promote and recognise volunteers the work of all volunteers in emergencies.

Thoughts and comments gratefully received – with best wishes

Early Intervention Services and Working with Families with Young children/teens

Hello All,

Hope you can help. We’re working on a new volunteering programme for early intervention services and we’re seeking examples of volunteers working in social work settings, on child protection issues, or mentoring/supporting families and young people at risk or in parent support. We’re seeking to develop a training programme to prepare volunteers to assist paid workers within early intervention services and seeking models out there that currently successfully engage volunteers.

I wondered whether any colleagues have already done this kind of thing and whether you might be able to point me to some successful models where this is working already.

Thanks very much for your help.

Kind regards

Hi there, Family Lives are working on 2 projects that see volunteers work with families as befrienders. They are early intervention in the sense that they try and stop issues escalating and will work with any families with a child under 18. It is very early days but we have just finished setting up all our processes for this.

As part of one of the projects we are also writing resources and training for family support services (including children’s centres) that work with volunteers. These will be out in the new year. Details of one of the projects are here – There is also a newsletter you can sign up to. Although neither project is working in your area, I would be happy to have a chat about the issues we had setting up the project and give more info about the resources.

The work we have done has found that there is lots of great volunteering happening in family support work but in a quite ad-hoc manner. Another organisation you could contact are Home Start who do befriending for families with children under 5.

Best database for 100 + vols


Hi all

I just wondered if anyone has any tips on the best database for us to use for around 100 – 200 volunteers?

We have been looking at Better Impact which is an on-line database and seems to be good… any alternatives or comments would be much appreciated!

Thank you!

On a similar note to Jo does anyone have any experience of volunteer management software vs other (ie HR software)? We are trying to put a case together for keeping our volunteers on a separate database to paid staff but are meeting with resistance so would appreciate any advice in this area, particularly regarding best practice/employment law.

In my experience organizations sometimes want to get people (volunteers, staff, supporters, donors, members, customers etc.) onto just one system because of the perceived benefits this will bring. In reality, however, these benefits are rarely realised. Why? I think it is down to that one system not doing anything very well. I think having dedicated systems that do their job really well yet also ‘talk’ to each other is the way forward.

Certainly in my work promoting Volunteer Squared here in the UK the benefits of a dedicated volunteer management system seem to be much better than integrating volunteers with another system that is mainly aimed at, for example, donors. My caution around integrating volunteering data with HR data is that volunteers aren’t the same as paid staff.

They exhibit difference characteristics. For example, volunteers often feel and behave like insiders (like staff) and outsiders (like passive donors) often at the same time. HR systems don’t (in my experience) allow the sophistication required of volunteer databases that such characteristics of volunteers require. Not sure if that’s much help but that’s my thoughts.

First, make a list of all of the things you need software to do re: tracking information about volunteers, and how information about each volunteer will be updated. For instance:

Do you need the software to provide online access for volunteers to input their own data? And, if so, what kind of information do you want them to be able to input themselves? (change of address, weekly time sheets, interest in upcoming shifts, etc.)

What fields of information do you need regarding each volunteer? Do you need to be able to see what projects volunteers have completed? How many hours they’ve completed in a week, a month, a quarter, etc.? Do you need to be able to see their shift preferences? Do you need to see the skills they are offering the organization?

Do you need a scheduling function as part of the software?

Yes, there is volunteer management software that does all of this, in case they try to say there isn’t:

Second, do you track clients or customers in the HR database? If no, then, IMO, volunteers should absolutely NOT be in the same database either – for the same reasons your HR office should balk at the idea of customers or clients being in the same database. Clients are not employees. Volunteers aren’t employees. To put volunteers into a database that tracks employees, but not clients, sends a message that volunteers are employees – and volunteers thinking of themselves of employees might start them wanting what employees get: compensation for work done. It also will create a culture where the organization thinks of volunteers as “free” employees. Volunteer roles are not designed in the same way as that of employees, volunteers don’t receive the same benefits of employees, and volunteers aren’t evaluated the same way as employees.

We place volunteers in disabled peoples home

We place volunteers in disabled peoples home and once matched they are unsupervised. We create a statement of commitment, which states it’s not a contract, and the specific activities within the volunteer/learner match are broken into steps, with risk assessment on the back page. It is signed by the staff member, the volunteer, the learner (service user) and a 3rd party if appropriate. We sometimes use pictures if the learner would find it too ‘texty’. We use the ‘signing up’ as acknowledgement of ‘buy in’ from everyone to the timed period of volunteer intervention.

It manages everyone’s expectations from the start about how the volunteer will be involved and enables the volunteer to use this tool to manage the boundaries of their role on an ongoing basis. A volunteer said to me that it created a helpful ‘formalizing’ of what they are doing, within the informal setting of the learners home and it marked the start of a journey and commitment for both – like a handshake on paper. I’m not saying we’re right – I also agree with other arguments about why you might not do it – perhaps it’s context specific..

That is why it is so important to keep in touch with other professionals and continued dialogue enabling each of us to determine what is the best procedure to implement in our own organizations

One great way of doing that is joining AVM – – try it!

This is quite a useful example. I suppose it the context we need to think about, and, I am sure in the majority of cases, volunteers may not have a problem. I also agree with Rob, actually, that we as professionals need to set the tone for best practice. Volunteer England provide very good guidance and, as has been correctly pointed out, it is probably outside their remit to legalize anything. Point taken!

Thanks very much for all comments, it has been extremely helpful! And one of the problems is that just saying it isn’t a contract doesn’t make it a non-contract.

In fact, if it was indeed found to be a contract, saying it isn’t one could be seen as trying to deprive someone of their contractual rights.

Years of experience have taught me that there are no easy answers to this kind of issue.

Organizations these days are highly risk averse

The thing is that organizations these days are highly risk averse, and if you work with Human Resources colleagues you will know that they often come from a worst case scenario basis – because the worst case scenario of ending up at tribunal is truly hideous all round.

This is where the Volunteering Manager/team need to build the knowledge and confidence to work with/round the organizational culture in a sure footed way. They need to be respected as the repository of volunteering expertise, and I’m not sure that’s always the case. You can see where this is going, can’t you – volunteer management as a specialism and profession. (I’m hoping there might be some good debate about this on the agenda of AVM’s conference Feb 29 – see some of you there?)

To add my penny’s worth, I agree with Rob and Ally – the same issue came up in our Macmillan Volunteering Team meeting this month. The general consensus was that volunteer agreements only serve to confuse staff who may interpret them as contracts. They also tend to give the impression that none of the other induction steps are important/necessary!

I do agree that there can be confusion for volunteers and Volunteer Managers about signing, because once you are been asked to put pen to paper to sign something, whether you like it or not, it become like a binding agreement. I think Volunteer England can help by declaring one way or the other, rather than the present guidance that volunteers don’t have to sign and if you ask them to sign, you can put a statementon the agreement saying it is not ‘legally binding,and you are under no obligation’ etc.

I would suggest rather than signing it should just be noted by the manager that the volunteer has been taken through it as part of the induction process. This would be preferable, certainly for us, as we also have issues around confidentiality and data protection, in light of our safeguarding policies.

When it comes to employment law, the issues around volunteering are complex and won’t be solved by VE saying this is what you must do. Especially when the sector is so diverse and the contexts in which volunteers work so varied.

Remember, VE don’t set the law or regulations around these issues. Their role is to present the relevant facts so that we can all make up our own minds about the best way for our organisations. At the end of the day it is us as professionals who should advise our organisations and make the appropriate decision relevant to our situations.

You are definitely not alone

Ally, you are definitely not alone. Whilst it is important to be aware of the legal issues (and thank goodness for people like Sandy and Mark Restall who help us navigate these waters) we should always focus on good volunteer management first as that’s the best way to avoid problems in the first place. I like to draw an analogy with tightrope walking (bear with me).

Good volunteer management makes sure the wire is secure, the walker is well trained and supported etc.. The legal side is about ensuring the safety net works if everything else fails. Focusing on the legal side ain’t going to get the person across the tightrope but it will help protect them (and us) if they fall.

Also, during the Volunteer Rights Inquiry, one person who gave evidence suggested that volunteers were unhappy with the way they are treated because volunteer managers have spent too much time worrying about the legal/risk aspects of what we do and so focus on what we can’t do for volunteers rather than focusing on what we can do and creating a great experience for them.

If that is true then it is a fairly cutting analysis of volunteer management practice and the disconnect with what our volunteers actually want.

A signature is irrelevant

A signature is irrelevant in determining whether a relationship is or is not contractual – and therefore whether someone is or is not entitled to employment-related rights. For a detailed explanation of when a contract might (or might not) be created with a volunteer, see The Russell-Cooke Voluntary Sector Legal Handbook (Directory of Social Change, 2009), section 39.4.

Might be on my own with this one… but I feel passionately that if you are practicing good practice in volunteer management, you don’t need signed agreements because at each step of the volunteer experience you have explained the role, managed expectations and boundaries and provided training and support relevant to that volunteer role. personally I think volunteers can be just as effective without agreements and also think that if they are used they should be used consistently. Not sure my thoughts are particularly useful but hopefully it helps, ally.

Volunteer Agreements – should volunteers sign these?

volunteerHi. New to this great blog!

I just want to clarify whether volunteers should be signing volunteer agreements or not. The Volunteer and the Law Handbook states that some organisations asks their volunteers to do this, and some don’t but to make it explicitly clear on the Agreements that it is not intended to be a legally binding agreement and in honor only.

We ask volunteers to sign and have added the statement as advised by the Law Handbook and Volunteer England. However, looking at the Grayson case (2004), the non-signature of the agreement was noted.

I am also wary of it being deemed as contractual by virtue of asking for a signature on it, when, in reality, volunteers are not expected to sign on anything that may look or implied to look like a contract! The question is should we or should we not ask volunteers to do this?

I have never heard of such a case

I have never heard of such a case. Even if a volunteer did try to argue that being invited to a staff Christmas party constitutes consideration and therefore creates a contract, I cannot believe that any tribunal would accept the argument.

What a volunteer might possibly have done is include this in a list of all the reasons why the tribunal should find that there is a contract and therefore s/he should be entitled to employment and employment-related rights.

For details of cases that illustrate when volunteers might or might not be held to be working under a contract, see The Russell-Cooke Voluntary Sector Legal Handbook (Directory of Social Change, 2009), s.39.4.

You could also call it the Team Christmas Party.

Terminology is more important than we might realise and it is relevant to more than the Christmas party (which it could also be called). Many organizations have staff away days some invite volunteers along with not much talk up. Simply by rebranding it to Staff and Volunteers away day-volunteers will obviously feel fully invited and that their input is being sought. Which should help your volunteers feel valued and maybe even improve retention. 🙂