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.