Conflicts and Grievances in Volunteering
Volunteering usually goes smoothly for the organisation and volunteers, however a question we are occasionally asked is how to resolve conflict and tackle grievances involving volunteers.
Volunteers do not have a contract of employment, therefore they do not have the same rights as an employee, but organisations still have a duty of care to their volunteers and need to ensure that they are treated fairly. Having correct documentation, good governance and volunteer induction can ensure that rights and responsibilities for both parties are clear from the outset.
Whilst volunteering should be a rewarding experience, the following should be put in place to reduce misunderstanding:
- Have a clear role description, including the duties expected of the volunteer. This ensures that everyone understand the parameters of the role
- Provide a comprehensive induction, going through all your policies and procedures
- Include a problem-solving policy in your volunteer handbook
- Offer training relevant to the volunteer role and ensure the training is kept updated, such as when there is a change in legislation, or a refresher is needed
- Have a Volunteer Agreement, setting out what is expected from both the volunteer and the organisation
It is important that your volunteer understands your policies but also what their rights are to respond to issues and have their voice heard.
There are some simple steps which can be followed to help defuse potential issues:
- Keep your eyes open for the small signs of issues, see if you can nip things in the bud before they escalate
- Maintain regular contact with volunteers, either by having an informal chat or arranging a more formal supervision, to catch issues before they have a chance to manifest
- Remain impartial, find out from all parties what the facts are, and act upon the facts rather than emotions
- Try and find a resolution which keeps everyone happy if this is realistically possible
Whether an issue is raised by your organisation about a volunteer or by a volunteer themselves, you should incorporate these steps to be fair to all parties concerned:
- Have an informal discussion
- If the informal discussion does not resolve the issue, invite the volunteer to address their concerns in writing to the appropriate person within your organisation and a meeting should be arranged to enable the volunteer to set out their issues and ask how they would like to see the issue resolved
- Should the issue remain unresolved, the volunteer can then write to the board or committee and be invited along to a relevant meeting to discuss the issue and potential resolutions
- Have an appeals process, outlining what steps a volunteer can take if the issue is not resolved to their satisfaction