20th February 2019

A Volunteer Charter

Principles for Assuring Legitimacy and Preventing Exploitation of Workers and Volunteers.

The Charter sets out key principles which help to underpin good relations in a volunteering environment. Volunteer Scotland and the STUC are committed to the free association and community spirit that motivates trade unionism and community action across Scotland. Organisations that recruit volunteers in place of workers or that arrange unpaid activities to enhance employment prospects*, undermine genuine volunteering, which is nurtured by strong and supportive networks, solidarity, and community spirit.

‘and where the main motivation is to gain unpaid labour’, see Editorial note 1 below.]

"The employment landscape in 2019 is very different. The labour market is now characterised by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work, as opposed to permanent jobs. Instead of a regular wage, more workers are on low hour insecure contracts or get paid for the "gigs" they do, such as food delivery or as a courier. In the UK it's estimated that five million people are employed in this type of capacity."

"Volunteering is freely undertaken, is not based on any form of employment contract and is not for financial gain; it involves the commitment of time and energy for the benefit of society and the community. Volunteering should also create a feeling of collectiveness which reinforces social connections. The involvement of volunteers should add value to and support the work of paid staff and should not be used to displace paid staff or undercut their pay and conditions of service."

"Changes in the labour market, new technologies, or employment policies are sometimes manipulated to entice volunteers with promises of future work or increased employability, which is often described as a form of community benefit. These suspect motives tend to signal instances of illegitimate volunteering, and the Charter is intended to help identify cases of volunteering misuse."

Welcoming the publication of the Charter, Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said,

"It is absolutely essential that volunteers, who are giving up their own free time and making a vital contribution to their communities are being treated fairly and know they are being valued. It is great to see Volunteer Scotland and the STUC working together on this new joint Volunteer Charter to support valuable volunteering opportunities and ensure good relationships between volunteers and workers."

These new principles should be used as a guide by individual organisations in all sectors to develop more detailed policies and procedures that reflect local needs and circumstances. This should be done, wherever possible, between local union representatives, employers and volunteering managers.

[Editorial Note 1, 18/08/19 – there is a rich tradition of volunteering designed principally to help individuals’ improve their  employment prospects. These types of opportunities meet the Charter Principles. This is not to be confused with organisations whose main motivation is to gain unpaid labour through promising enhanced employment prospects, the legitimacy of the “volunteering roles” they offer should be questioned.]