Employer-supported volunteering: An objective view

Earlier this year we wrote about the Conservative Party manifesto commitment to introduce a new employment entitlement for employees connected with employer-supported volunteering (ESV). This new rule is intended to extend to all employees in organisations with more than 250 workers, and will be for up to 3 days leave each year on full pay to undertake voluntary work.

At our recent autumn events we have been seeking to outline the benefits to employers of introducing such a policy, but have been struggling to find much concrete detail to support our thoughts and analysis. So we are delighted that the CIPD have recently published a new reportOn the brink of a game-changer?, which looks in detail at this topic, and, in particular, some of the lessons that both employers and charities may need to learn if this new political initiative is going to be a success and genuinely beneficial to both sides.

In the report foreword the potential benefits to the sponsoring employer are listed, including a boost to reputation and brand, improved employee engagement, and scope to increase skills and teamwork. Yet the report also recognises that these are not a given, and goes on to say:

“These advantages will be realised only if employees actually take part and the opportunities that they participate in are of good quality and have a positive impact on the communities which they are supporting.  This can only be achieved through a constructive and open relationship between employers and the voluntary organisations providing the opportunities.”

Essentially the report is highlighting something that we have been trying to articulate, to get the important and valuable returns on the time and investment of ESV, both parties will have to engage with the process from the start.

But will the potential return to the employer justify this extra time commitment? The CIPD research suggests it will, given that employee participation in ESV (where available) represents somewhere between a quarter and a third of eligible workers. So when/if this becomes an employee entitlement, the take-up will represent a sizeable slice of most workforces. It follows that any employer would be foolish to meet this new duty unprepared.

The report also goes a long way to highlighting the common mistakes and misunderstanding that can result in a poor return for all parties. An example of this was where the voluntary organisation was effectively expected to host a company team-building day for free. Such an approach ignores the day to day operation and cost challenges to the charity concerned – and shows how important early communication and understanding between employer, charity and volunteers will be.

But will any of this happen? Our gut feeling is that it will. While the initial commitment was that of the Conservatives alone, it is difficult to see why other political parties would object to this, and indeed it would be politically dangerous for them to do so (no party wants to be seen to be anti-charity). The final proposals may of course look very different to the original promise, but it is likely that progress towards a new workplace right to provide ESV will take place over the next few years.

It’s also worth mentioning that those employers who embrace company supported volunteering prior to any legislative requirements – and by careful planning with the recipient organisation – are likely to get the best return on their investment all round.

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So I would encourage all employers to take some time out this Christmas to read through this rather useful document from the CIPD.  We will of course return to this topic in 2016.

For the full original article and other similar posts, please visit the Jelf Group blog.