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