Taking on a volunteer can bring benefits to both your organisation and the volunteer. A volunteer role description can help you to find volunteers who are well suited to your organisation, whilst... ... Read more
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How to Make a Volunteer Role Description
Taking on a volunteer can bring benefits to both your organisation and the volunteer. A volunteer role description can help you to find volunteers who are well suited to your organisation, whilst setting out clear expectations for the volunteering relationship.
Use this volunteer role description if you:
run or work for a business, charity or another organisation which wants to take on:
one or more volunteers
somebody for a work experience placement
your organisation is based in England, Wales or Scotland
you do not want the person you’re taking on to be a paid, regular employee
This template volunteer role description covers:
an overview of your organisation and its activities
links to further information about your organisation (eg social media channels)
the key contact information for your organisation
a description of the volunteer role and the key tasks that it involves
an explanation of which expenses the volunteer(s) may be reimbursed for (eg travel expenses)
the key skills requirements for the volunteer role
optional details of other skills, qualifications, and attributes that you would like the volunteer(s) taking on the role to possess
an outline of the process you’re using to take on the new volunteer(s)
how people can apply for the volunteer role, including (optional) details about the cover letter
information about equal opportunities and treatment
A volunteer role description is an informative document which communicates details about the volunteer role you are looking to fill to prospective volunteers. It clarifies important issues about the role, including the nature of the relationship between the volunteer and your organisation. The document can also serve as a reminder of important information for volunteers once they have taken on the role. It is an informative document only: it is not a contract or an agreement.
You can use your volunteer role description to advertise your volunteer role. Or, you can attach it to or link it from your ad for prospective volunteers who want more details about the role.
If you decide to take on a volunteer, it is a good idea to immediately be as clear and honest as possible about the role you want the volunteer to fill. This makes you more likely to find a volunteer who truly wants to be involved with your organisations and who’s more likely to make a difference to your customers or beneficiaries.
Having a volunteer role description in place before taking on a volunteer can also help you to avoid misunderstandings as to the nature of the volunteer’s relationship with your organisation. This volunteer role description helps you to establish that you are looking for an unpaid volunteer, not an employee.
You should also create a volunteer role description if you’re taking on people for a voluntary (unpaid) work experience placement with your organisation. Work experience can blur the lines between volunteering and working. If you want to ensure people undertaking work experience are legally classified as volunteers (and so not granted employee rights - see below for more information) you can set out these parameters in this volunteer role description.
Genuine volunteers are not employees and do not have the employment rights that a paid worker would have (eg the right to minimum wage or holiday pay). You must, however, uphold volunteers’ rights as you would an employee’s rights related to:
health and safety (eg by providing a safe place of work)
data protection (eg by ensuring you use volunteers’ information in a safe and transparent manner)
equal opportunities and discrimination (eg by treating everyone equally during the volunteer recruitment process)
workplace bullying and harassment (eg by ensuring these things don’t take place and by dealing adequately with any complaints)
Genuine volunteers are not employees, however, somebody you call a volunteer may be legally considered an employee if certain conditions are met. This would mean that your organisation has an employment relationship with the volunteer (ie there is an implied contract of employment). There are various factors which determine whether there is an employment relationship. Two of the most important factors are:
whether the person is paid for the work they do - this is one of the strongest indicators that a relationship is an employment relationship. Therefore, when reimbursing volunteers for any expenses that they incur whilst volunteering for you, you should be careful not to pay them any more than the amount necessary to reimburse them for their expenses. Reimbursing volunteers for expenses that they have genuinely incurred by volunteering with you will not be considered ‘pay’.
whether there is mutual obligation between the parties - this can indicate an employment relation if, for example, the volunteer is required to accept and perform work (eg if the volunteer must volunteer at certain set times) or you are required to provide such work for the volunteer
For more information, read Working as a volunteer.
Being sure that your volunteers really are volunteers (ie there is no employment relationship) is important if you don’t want to be obliged to pay them and to provide all the benefits and rights (eg rights regarding dismissal) that employees are entitled to. This volunteer role description template helps you to avoid creating an employment relationship. However, these situations can be complex. You should consider creating a Volunteer agreement to further clarify your relationship with your volunteers, or you can Ask a lawyer for help navigating the situation.
When taking on a volunteer, it’s a good idea to formalise and record your process, for example by using a volunteer role description to advertise the role and a Volunteer agreement to clarify the arrangement when you find somebody. This can help you to avoid any disputes, for instance, if a volunteer argues that they have an employment relationship with you.
Sometimes, you also need to perform other checks when taking on a volunteer. For example:
immigration checks if you’re taking on a volunteer who requires a visa to volunteer in the UK
criminal record checks (eg DBS checks), for instance, if your volunteer will be working with vulnerable people
For more information, read the Government guidance.
You should also always adhere to equal opportunities and discrimination laws when taking on volunteers. Having an Equal opportunities policy in place can help you to do this.
Ask a lawyer for advice if:
you want help determining whether somebody is classified as a volunteer or an employee
you want to take your volunteers outside of the UK
you want to take on a volunteer but you may also consider offering them employment in the future
Last reviewed or updated 30/05/2022
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