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National Association of 
Voluntary Services Managers

Lead, promote and develop best practice in 
Volunteer Management in the NHS and Healthcare

Placement of Volunteers

 

Volunteer Agreement

 

Asking a volunteer to read and sign a Volunteer Agreement can be a useful way of ensuring that all

parties are clear about their respective roles, rights and responsibilities. This may form part of the

volunteer role description or be a separate generic document that all volunteers sign.

The Agreement form may include confirmation of understanding of and acceptance of the

requirements of Confidentiality. It may also request details of next of kin or emergency contact and

their contact details if these have not already been requested (for example on an application form). It

is important to ensure that any document is carefully worded and does not imply any contractual

obligation on either side. This can be avoided by following the below guidance:

 

Reduce obligations on the part of the volunteer

 

Time commitments tend to be the most problematic area here. Most Trusts ask volunteers to

commit to minimum time periods, with volunteers agreeing to volunteer for at least three or six

months. This should be avoided if possible but can be portrayed as an expectation rather than a

requirement, emphasising the length of time / cost / amount of work required to recruit someone

vs the length of time that volunteers would need to feel like they had made a difference and

gained something from the experience.

 

Don’t make the relationship sound contractual

 

Avoid using language that matches the employer / employed situation such as ‘contract’, ‘job’,

‘payment’ or ‘job description’. These words should be replaced by ‘agreement’, ‘role’ and

‘reimbursement of expenses’ and ‘role description’.

 

Make it clear that you don’t intend to create a contract

 

If you wish your volunteer to sign a document outlining their obligations, make sure that it is an

‘agreement’ which outlines mutual expectations and not a legally binding ‘contract’. You could

spell out the fact that volunteers and / or the Trust can cancel the arrangement at any time.

 

Create a distinction between paid workers and volunteers

 

This is of particular relevance in a poor economic climate when paid staff may be made

redundant and departments are keen to have volunteers to assist. You need to ensure that

volunteers do not end up substituting for paid roles. You should also avoid applying all the same

policies / procedures (for example disciplinary or appraisal) as are used with paid staff as these

are likely to be too formal anyway and will also blur the lines between volunteers and staff.

More information about what might be included in a volunteer agreement and to view sample

agreements then visit the Volunteering England website: http://www.volunteering.org.uk/resources/goodpracticebank/Core+Themes/volunteerpolicies/volunteeragreements.htm

 

For more information about how to avoid creating a ‘contract’ please visit the Volunteering England

website: www.volunteering.org.uk/resources/publications/volunteersandthelaw