Volunteer Complaints

A complaint policy and procedures for your volunteers may sound rather formal but they are intended to promote fairness in the treatment of volunteers and ensure that as far as possible volunteers have equality with paid staff.

Hopefully the settlement of any difficulties can be achieved through the normal channels of communication. Where this is not possible, the purpose of these procedures is to provide for the orderly resolution of joint problems in a fair and open way.

Informal Discussions

In the first instance, if any volunteer has a complaint about their volunteering or a colleague they should discuss it informally, as soon as possible, with their line manager or another manager if the complaint involves the line manager. The manager should take the complaint seriously and ensure that everything is done to try and resolve the issue informally. It is hoped that the majority of concerns will be resolved at this stage.

Formal Procedure

Stage 1:

If a volunteer feels that the matter has not been resolved through informal discussions, they should put the complaint in writing to their line manager. If the complaint involves the staff member’s line manager the complaint should be put in writing to another manager in the organisation or the Director.

A meeting will be held between the volunteer and their line manager (or other appropriate person) to respond to the complaints raised. The meeting will be an opportunity for the volunteer to explain their complaints and share how they would like them to be addressed. The volunteer has a right to be accompanied to the meeting.

Stage 2:

If the volunteer feels the issue has still not been resolved satisfactorily, the volunteer must raise the matter, in writing, with the Director. The Director will advise the Chair of the Board of Directors. The Director will invite the volunteer to a meeting where they can discuss the matter and establish how best to resolve the situation. The volunteer has a right to be accompanied to the meeting.

Following the meeting, the Director will give a written response within 5 working days of the meeting outlining how the complaint will be responded to. If the complaint is against another member of staff or volunteer, or requires further investigation, the Director will need to carry out further meetings or investigations. In this case, the 5 working days limit above, may need to be extended. The response will follow this meeting and include a reference to the right of appeal.

Informal and formal approaches

Dealing with issues with volunteers does not automatically mean that a formal process (excluding cases of gross misconduct) should begin. There are other options, described below, which should be used before any formal process. Also, even when a formal process has started, there are still alternatives to asking someone to stop volunteering.

Informal process:

  • Informal procedures aim to resolve behaviour or performance that gives cause for concern as soon as possible.
  • Regular support meetings are important for consistent management and communication with volunteers. They provide a good opportunity to talk about performance or conduct, including any specific concerns or complaints raised by a volunteer, or about the volunteer.
  • When issues arise the volunteer manager should meet with the volunteer as soon as possible to ask what their view on the situation is. This is to establish the facts surrounding the issue and agree with the volunteer what they are expected to do in order to address this, the timeframe for improvements and for any follow-up meetings.
  • By meeting with the volunteer, what initially seems to be a serious problem may highlight a training need. Volunteers might not realise that something they’re doing is a cause for concern, particularly if guidance or policy has changed since they joined the organisation.
  • It can be difficult to give volunteers constructive feedback or raise issues, but a volunteer cannot be expected to improve or change the way they work if an issue has not been discussed with them. Often they will not be aware they have done something wrong and will want to improve.
  • If, after the agreed time, informal procedures do not bring a positive change, the volunteer manager should initiate the formal process.

Formal process:

  • If it is not possible to resolve issues using informal procedures then a more formal process can be used to manage the situation.
  • In some cases if the issue is more serious, for example gross misconduct, then the formal process should begin sooner.
  • Initial complaints should go to the person who supervises the volunteer. If the matter is not sorted out at this stage, then both parties should have the option to refer to a named person in a more senior position in the organisation.
  • Volunteers should have the option of having a friend along to any meetings as part of this process.
  • Any decisions that are jointly agreed between you and the volunteer, on how to resolve the situation (more on alternatives below) should be written down and communicated to the volunteer either in writing or via email.
  • If a volunteer has to leave as a result of these proceedings, you should let them know as soon as possible, during a face to face meeting if practical, and followed up in writing. The relevant members of staff and volunteers should be made aware of the situation.
  • Asking a volunteer to leave can be extremely difficult. This may be needed if there is no satisfactory improvement in a volunteer’s performance in the time frame discussed and agreed. The volunteer should be told as soon as possible of the reasons for this, the date on which their volunteering will end and their right of appeal.

In extreme circumstances, a volunteer may be asked to leave with, or without, notice. This is the most serious action that can be taken and is reserved for cases of gross misconduct. The instances which the organisation would regard as gross misconduct should be identified and should be clearly described in your policies. It should be included in the information supplied to volunteers and to the staff who have responsibilities for supporting volunteers.

Following the meeting, the line manager (or another appropriate person) will give a written response within 5 working days of the meeting outlining how the complaint(s) will be responded to. If the complaint is against another member of staff or volunteer or requires further investigation, the line manager (or another appropriate person) will need to carry out further meetings or investigations. In this case, the 5 working days limit above, may need to be extended. The response will follow this meeting and include a reference to the right of appeal.

Right of Appeal

If the volunteer wishes to appeal against any grievance decision, they must appeal, in writing within five working days of the decision being communicated to them to the Vice Chair of the Board of Directors. The Vice Chair will convene an Appeals Sub committee to hear the appeal and the staff member will be invited to a meeting with the Appeals Sub committee. The volunteer will have the right to be accompanied to the appeal meeting. The Chair will not form part of the Appeals sub. The Appeals Sub committee’s decision will be final.

 

Download this guide – HERE

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

Further Support Available

Stockton Volunteers is dedicated to supporting volunteer involved organisations in Stockton-on-Tees. Further support is available through our website where you can:

  • Download more Good Practice Guides
  • Find out more about the Stockton Volunteers Good Practice Kite Mark
  • Place volunteer advertisements
  • Get information about our latest Stockton Volunteers Partnership Meeting
  • Contact us for advice and support on your volunteering programmes
  • Get advice on policies and procedures for volunteering.

The Stockton Volunteers Good Practice Kite Mark is awarded to organisations who demonstrate commitment to supporting and nurturing their volunteers.

Recognised across County Durham and Stockton-on-Tees, the Stockton Volunteers Good Practice Kite Mark follows the ethos of Volunteer England and National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO).