Empire Group believes that volunteers have been, and remain, fundamental to the service it deliverers. Without volunteers as an organisation we could not provide these services. With this in mind we believe that:
- Everyone has the right to volunteer without experiencing unfair discrimination, and the Empire Group has a responsibility to treat volunteers appropriately and sensitively
- Volunteering is a matter of free choice and there can be no compulsion to become a volunteer;
- Volunteering is a valuable integral part of society and as such volunteers deserve support and recognition;
- Volunteers assist in effecting social change and improving the quality of life and play an essential role in alleviating the effects of poverty, ignorance, inequality and injustice.
This policy clarifies what the Empire Group sets out to do for its volunteers and what we expect in return.
At the heart of our policies is the policy is our commitment to volunteers. This commitment applies equally to all volunteers within the Empire Group activities for example coaching, mentoring, Homework and study support, events, etc. Therefore we commit to the following
- Welcome and encourage volunteers
- Foster an environment where volunteers can contribute fully to the
- Be clear on the Empire Group’s expectations of volunteers and look for these to be met
- Create volunteering opportunities that can be tailored to the needs of individuals
- Support all volunteers to achieve the organisation’s objectives, and, where possible, their own personal objectives
- Base volunteering opportunities on the community approach and local contacts
- Listen to volunteers and give them a role, and a voice, in the running of the organisation
- To provide a full induction and any training necessary for the volunteer role.
- To provide a named supervisor for the volunteer, with regular supervision meetings.
- To treat volunteers in line with its equal opportunities policy.
- To reimburse out-of-pocket expenses where it is appropriate and necessary for them to carry out their volunteering
- To provide insurance cover for the volunteers.
- To implement good health and safety practice.
What we expect from volunteers
There are two basic requirements we expect form volunteer, namely:
- Follow the letter and spirit of the organisation’s policies and procedures, including equal opportunities, health and safety and confidentiality.
- To meet mutually agreed time commitments, or give notice if this is not possible
Our volunteers are people who, unpaid and of their own free will, contribute their time, energy and skills to support the purposes of the Empire Group
Volunteers may perform a variety of tasks and duties, under direction and guidance, using their skills, knowledge and time to help the Empire Group to achieve its objectives.
We respect and honour our volunteers by building trust and understanding. Such a partnership is not intended to be a legally binding contract or to have mutuality of obligation, but instead express a voluntary two-way commitment where everyone gains satisfaction from being part of our organisation.
Our Volunteer Policies
Volunteer opportunities will be actively promoted and made widely accessible, in accordance with the methods developed for finding new volunteers. We will be clear on the opportunity each role brings, its benefits and what tasks need to be undertaken.
We will ensure that, where practical, all potential, active and past volunteers’ details, and any other relevant information, are recorded accurately, securely and used in line with our Data Protection Policy. We will aim to process every request to Volunteer as promptly and professionally as possible.
Volunteers, no matter what their role is, will on joining receive general information and guidance. This will be further developed with appropriate training and development. We ask that all volunteers then help us by participating in line within our current policies, standards and procedures. Volunteers will be recruited as per Empire Group’s Recruitment policy and in line with its Equal Opportunities and Diversity Policy.
Communication and feedback
Empire Group will ensure all volunteers have the opportunity to give and receive information relevant to their role. The methods of communication and feedback will be appropriate in style, frequency, tone and source to individuals and groups of volunteers.
Through good communications we will encourage volunteers to stay with us, recognise their efforts and maximise their contribution. We welcome feedback on how things could be done better and how to improve our systems.
All our volunteers will have access to support and guidance from a named person, plus opportunities to gain mutual support from attending Volunteer group functions and conferences. Volunteers will also be encouraged to provide each other with mutual support through existing local or national gatherings.
We will report to every Empire Group Meeting about Volunteer involvement, and our Volunteer ethos. We will endeavour to ensure that the views of our volunteers in their various involvements are represented to the Trustee Committee regularly.
Training and Continuous Professional Development
For each formal Volunteer role, the skills required and major tasks that need to be performed will be defined. Each part of the RNLI will then develop appropriate systems to ensure that our volunteers can gain the skills and development required to achieve the role. This may be through in house training or support in obtaining nationally or sports specific qualifications e.g. Athletics Coaching Awards, Sports Leaders Awards, Community Volunteering Qualification, Personal and Social Development qualification, First Aid, Health and Safety, and any other relevant training or qualifications
All our development and training processes will be clearly documented and recorded, so that we can ensure that all volunteers are helping the Empire Group achieve its objectives. We will assess Volunteer competencies and other competencies where we are legally obliged to do so.
Where appropriate and verifiable, volunteers will be entitled to reimbursement of their out-of-pocket expenses. Each particular group of volunteers has different needs and the Empire Group will develop appropriate expenses claim systems. These will be reviewed regularly.
Equal opportunities, diversity and social responsibility
Empire Group aims to provide a fair and open environment in which all volunteers can contribute and participate. We encourage people from all walks of life to fill our Volunteer roles. Where practical, we will make volunteering available to everyone.
Health and safety, insurance and risk assessment
The Empire Group has a duty of care towards its volunteers. In practice this means taking all reasonable steps to reduce the likelihood of harm coming to them, either through action or inaction. Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 also places a duty on employers (i.e. an organisation that employs at least one paid member of staff) “to ensure, as far as reasonably practical, that persons not in their employment, who may be affected by their undertaking, are not exposed to risks to their health and safety” and “to give information as might as might affect their health or safety”.
We will be aware of potential risks to volunteers, and take steps to reduce them where they are unacceptable. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 compel employers to carry out risk assessments on their activities, again taking into account anyone who may be affected by their work.
In the case of health and safety legislation and certain insurance policies, volunteers are treated in the same way as employees. The Empire Group holds employers’ liability insurance, which covers claims made against the Empire Group by our staff and volunteers. Additionally, we have a public liability insurance that provides cover against claims from third parties.
On joining, volunteers will be given information on all relevant policies and legislation that may affect them in their role.
Working in partnership with other groups
We recognise the need for a strategic approach to the development of volunteering throughout the UK and support the work of those organisations trying to achieve this either on a national or local basis.
Confidentiality, data protection, and information property rights
Volunteers will have access to their records and all data will be kept in line with the Data Protection Act, the Empire Group’s Data Protection Policy and all other relevant legislation. Empire Group requests that all volunteers respect and treat in confidence the information that they may be party, to as part of their Volunteer involvement. This includes written, oral and electronic information.
Dealing with Complain
A Volunteer may wish to raise an issue or problem with a member of staff. Empire Group will endeavour to ensure that all parties have full, fair and open hearing. We aim to solve problems early and to the satisfaction of all parties. An appeals procedure is in place if the matter is not resolved and this is taken to the Management Committee.
Empire Group recognises the valuable contribution made by all its volunteers. Volunteers who have made a substantial difference or commitment in any way will be recognised for their particular effort. This may take a variety of forms, and will be dependent on the role, level of involvement, and the activity undertaken.
Volunteering should not affect a person´s benefits, as long as they continue to meet the requirements for their particular benefit, and that it is clearly genuine voluntary work.
Claimants on Jobseekers Allowance must be available for and actively seeking work. Volunteers must be available to attend interview at 48 hours notice and start work at one week´s notice. This is actually a concession to volunteers from the normal 24 hour´s notice. To be actively seeking work volunteers must continue to take steps to look for work each week (such steps are normally outlined in a Jobseeker´s Agreement).
The Incapacity Benefit rules regard volunteering as an exempt category of work – this means that carrying it out should not affect their claim to be incapable of work. It is of course important to avoid volunteers carrying out activities which seem to contradict their reason for being on the benefit.
Other benefits such as Income Support, Disability Living Allowance, and Housing Benefit etc should not be affected by volunteering.
Empire Group will take all practicable steps to safeguard the safety and welfare of young people while they are in contact with us, observing any legislation and best practice.
In selecting volunteers who are to work with children, young people and other vulnerable groups we will follow and use specific procedures and standards. Empire Group will comply with those standards specified by legislation and codes of practices when carrying out these procedures.
We will take up references and complete the Criminal Records Bureau checks for a volunteer role.
Empire Group is aware that there are legal restrictions on employing young people; they do not apply to volunteers and with this in mind a risk assessment will be made, in order to decide whether placing a young person in a volunteer role would put them, or the people with whom they were working, at risk. However, by adhering to some basic principles Empire Group can involve young people in its work:
- Young people should not be left unattended
- It is safer if young volunteers are supervised by an adult/s
- Any potentially dangerous activity should have constant adult supervision.
We also recognise that in some instances parental permission may be required and therefore when giving a consent form to a volunteer, also consider providing a volunteer role description and publicity leaflets for your organisation. This would help to ensure that the volunteer’s parent/guardian understands what your organisation does, what the young person will be doing, when and where they will be working and consents to this. If the volunteer will be working away from the premises where they normally volunteer, then additional permission should be sought. Empire Group’s volunteer co-ordinator/s will strongly encourage volunteers in this age group to discuss their activities with their parents or guardians and highlight that they can be a good source of emotional support.
There is also an enhanced duty of care towards young volunteers, reflecting their relative maturity. This means that risks assessments cannot take responsible behaviour for granted, and are likely to imply increased supervision, more explicit instructions and so on.