Job substitution 'risks undermining perception of volunteering', warns umbrella body

Justin Davis Smith, chief of Volunteering England, says replacing paid staff with volunteers could be extremely damaging

Justin Davis Smith
Justin Davis Smith

Job substitution, where volunteers are used to replace paid staff, could undermine the public perception of volunteering, a new guide from Volunteering England warns.

The publication, A Guide to Avoiding Job Substitution, calls on charities and other organisations to maintain their responsibilities to employees in the face of cuts to services.

"There is a danger that volunteering becomes politicised in these situations, and it would be damaging to the public perception of volunteers if they are seen to undermine staff jobs," the document says.

Job substitution could arise in a number of scenarios, it explains, ranging from an organisation cutting jobs and recruiting volunteers to fill the gaps, to community groups volunteering to continue running services that have been cut.

When job substitution is a possibility, the guidance says organisations should make sure they review their relationships with their volunteer groups, the kind of roles they expect volunteers to fill and the training and support they would need in these cases.

The guide, which has been produced in partnership with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, the local infrastructure group Navca and Locality, the network for community-led groups, also encourages employers to:

  • Consult staff, trade unions and the community
  • Create a volunteer policy covering issues such as recruitment, diversity, expenses and supervision
  • Agree volunteer roles and responsibilities
  • Nurture strong working relationships between staff and volunteers

Justin Davis Smith, chief executive of Volunteering England, said: "There is a danger that volunteers are seen as a way of reducing costs, and that undermines staff jobs and is extremely damaging to the public perception of volunteering. Plans to involve volunteers should complement and supplement the work of paid staff.

"Indeed, volunteers may bring new ideas or skills to organisations at a time when they are greatly needed."

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Volunteering England

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