Tags – Tips for Bringing Volunteers on Board 

In light of the current pandemic, it’s been found there is an enormous population out there who are willing volunteers, ready to lend their skills and support during difficult times.

For example, those who were furloughed have more time and a desire to give back to the community.

For businesses, volunteers are a great way to introduce fresh ideas and a new energy to the team, such as bringing in a range of new skills and expertise that you may not get from your existing team.

However, the process of hiring a volunteer should not be rushed and needs to be properly prepared to make sure both you and the volunteer get the best out of the agreement.

Here are 5 tips for successfully bringing volunteers on board.

1. Confidentiality Policy

The purpose of a confidentiality policy for all staff, including volunteers, is to ensure everyone understands requirements in regards to the disclosure of personal information.

Even though volunteers do not have the same contractual duties, they are still subject to a duty of confidentiality.

With this in mind, businesses need to be clear about which information is deemed confidential to ensure there are no doubts.

For volunteers, it’s a good idea to outline a confidentiality policy, which reminds them of their duties – both when in the organisation and after they have left.

Essentially, you should ask volunteers to sign this policy that agrees to maintaining confidentiality before they are given access to information.

2. Signed Agreements

Volunteers do not have the same contracts of employment as employees – and their rights differ too.

Although this is not compulsory, it’s a good idea to put everything down on paper to set out your business’s expectations from the volunteer.

Sometimes, these agreements are referred to as “rights and responsibilities”, and are not contracts, nor legally binding, and it should not be implied as such either.

Instead, volunteer agreements should outline

  • The level of supervision or support provided
  • If there’s any training involved
  • Advise if they are covered under the business’s insurance policy
  • Health and safety procedures
  • Expenses covered

3. Records and Data Protection

The Data Protection Act 1998 is the legal framework for storing and processing personal information.

The two main areas it covers are:

  1. Good practice when processing information
  2. Individual’s right to access information held about them

Typically, information about volunteers will include:

  • Contact details
  • Details of experience and skills
  • Monitoring information, such as nationality, ethnicity, disability etc.
  • DBS checks
  • References

Some of this is classed as “sensitive data” under the Act and must be processed accordingly. 

Although there are no clear guidelines for the retention of volunteer records, businesses should follow the data protection principle where data should not be kept longer than its purpose – i.e. when volunteers leave, data should be disposed of.

Moreover, volunteers should be made aware of why you are collecting this information, what you will do with it and how you will keep it safe before you bring them on board – this can be noted in the agreement.

4. Be Clear

Once you have decided on the volunteer who has the right attributes or skills to work for your business, the next step would be to outline what they are and are not entitled to.

For instance, be clear on their break times and or if you will cover additional costs, such as the use of phones or if they need to use their own equipment.

Furthermore, create clear task descriptions so volunteers understand clearly what it is you’re asking from them.

Lastly, it’s important to realise that volunteers are usually driven by a desire to do good or want to get something positive out of their position, i.e. work experience, networking with like-minded individuals or learning a new skill. 

Therefore, be clear about what your business can do for them as well as what you need from them.

5. DBS Checks

A DBS check is the process of gathering information about a volunteer’s criminal history and is vital to safeguarding your business.

To put simply, it aids in safer recruitment decisions and prevents unsuitable people from working within your business – especially when there are vulnerable groups.

However, not all volunteers will be eligible for a DBS check, so it’s important you understand the regulations surrounding them before applying for one.

In order to be eligible, volunteers must not be paid for the work they do and they need to benefit an unrelated third party.

Generally speaking, DBS checks are carried out when work with children or vulnerable adults is required and can be carried out at a standard or enhanced level.

Final Words

By following these tips above before hiring a volunteer, you can ensure your business maintains a consistent and reliable quality of service.

Above all, carrying out the appropriate checks and ensuring you are clear in your ‘ask’ will safeguard your business and address any concerns early on. 

If you would like to find out more, please get in touch today.

In the meantime, check out our HR Consultancy Birmingham services.

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