The world of Human Resources and Personnel is different to the property world, with a different skill set of working with people personally rather than with a property itself. Saying that, these two costs are often the two largest overheads for any business – basically the property and the staff costs.
Sometimes these two worlds do in actual fact coincide, and therefore need to mutually respect each other. So for example, a property’s fire safety systems are actually about how people practically and safely use the property, and likewise some of the people-management issues relate to the property they work or reside in.
Where you do have direct employment issues, then specialist advice is of course needed, but even those grey areas in between need careful consideration. An example is a charity that I’ve been involved with, which began with basic property compliance issues to consider, but it soon came to light that every person at the charity was in a volunteering capacity rather than, say, an Employment, Self-Employment, or Worker capacity.
When Employment Issues Can Kick Off
Once you are in the full employment world then there are other issues such as TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations) when people have rights of transfer with new property interest holders, and even workers gaining rights as employees through an outsourced Recruitment Agency meaning things are no longer arms-length away.
There has also been recent case law regarding the new ‘gig’ economy, and rights that individuals have within this context, particularly with the fast-and-easy way of procuring through the internet like with the recent Uber situation
The Volunteer Revolution
Volunteering is a great principle, and it is wonderful to see so many dedicated people willing to voluntarily give their time and energy to a great cause. Saying that, there is a worrying gap in documentation as to how this ‘volunteering’ capacity is often carried out.
From a pro-active perspective this is important for people to clearly understand the role and basis of their volunteering, and from a reactive basis it’s essential to have things clarified in writing in case things do go wrong and either the organisation or volunteer feel that other employment rights have been inherited.
The Simple Volunteer Agreement
So here is a resultant ‘Volunteer Agreement’. A simple 2-page type letter that can be signed by both an individual volunteer, and a representative of the charity or organisation they are volunteering for.
In the charity scenario I have been involved with, we knuckled this down to a simple-as-possible agreement with the advice of a HR Consultant, which is actually more of a general letter style rather than a formal contract of any sort.
It’s simply a way of clearly clarifying various aspects in writing, but still keeping the heart and gist of genuine volunteering help without killing it by red-tape.
All Kinds of Volunteering
This is applicable for both ‘internal’ and ‘external’ volunteers, the former being those actively part of the charity and therefore the more obvious example. The ‘external’ were actually from the local Jobcentre Plus
programme, with individuals volunteering so many hours with tasks like cleaning, administration, and property maintenance around the building.
Although there was an overall form signed by the organisation and agency, this came to light as being very general and not really clarifying detailed issues with individuals, particularly if they ended staying on beyond their original time frame.
The Ten Volunteering Factors
So in terms of what such a simple 2-page ‘Volunteer Agreement’ letter should actually include, here are the ten essential items:
1. Clarify that there is no employment arrangement between the individual and the organization
This is key, and the gist of the whole letter really. It doesn’t have to be a set clause of certain words, but because this is so important here’s some sample words you could have :
“This agreement is binding in honour only, is not intended to be a legally binding contract between us and may be cancelled at any time at the discretion of either party. Neither of us intends any employment relationship to be created either now or at anytime in the future.”
2. No money should be given other than approved expenses
So have a clear policy on what are legitimate expenses for their volunteering time, for example any travel expenses, or if they purchase any stationery or special clothing.
Also be clear on how they do this, for example with receipts and invoices, and to be communicated through a set procedure. Anything beyond this is a no-no unfortunately, even with gifts that you may want to offer the individual for their genuine good efforts, but could be interpreted as a form of payment to them.
3. Mention what the Equal Opportunities Policy is
This is ideally a separate document, but you can refer to it in here. This needs to clearly set the parameters of who is able to volunteer whilst still remaining fair for everyone.
4. Concisely state everyone’s roles
So start with the organisation’s, and what they are committing to provide including practical things like insurance cover and support. You can then detail what the expectations of the volunteer are and any set goals.
Although you’re relying upon the generous help of the volunteer, it is good to clarify the basics such as expected volunteering times, and ways to communicate if they cannot make it or have any problems.
5. Mention how you plan to train volunteers and then review afterwards
So if there is an initial induction session, for example, and then an opportunity every so often to review how things are going.
6. Add in some helpful practical issues
So what dates and times are expected, who the volunteer needs to report into, the basic Health & Safety procedures of the organisation and property-related ones like the Fire Evacuation Procedures.
7. It’s good to refer to your Lone Worker policy and how you’re procuring
This also needs to be clearly outworked for the volunteer’s role in question through a Risk Assessment and other procedures, for example emergency contacts, any regular reporting, and when and where they must have others around them for their own and others safety.
8. A Complaints Procedure always helps reinforce how you deal with things that go wrong
Ideally a separate document you can refer to which clearly states how these are dealt with within the organization, including an initial letter of complaint, say, through to outside parties becoming involved in resolving.
9. Add in a Confidentiality Clause as well
Easily missed, but whilst the volunteer is part of the organisation and dealing with information unique to the organisation, as part of their own Data Protection and other obligations you need to clarify that this information can not be incorrectly communicated. Also, if there are any issues, then the above Complaints Procedure is there to help.
10. Collate the volunteer’s full contact and registration details
So name, address, email and phone number at the very least, and clarify whether any reference or even DBS checks are required and in what time frame and format.
The Finished Volunteer Agreement
Although these 10 aspects can seem daunting, they should all fit into a natural-flowing letter no longer than 2 pages long. It’s simply the extra detail to protect both the volunteer and the organisation in this really important volunteering activity – contact us if you’d like more help with this.