Q: We are a small local charity. One of our volunteers regularly lets us down after agreeing to come in, and when she does come in she only does the bits of the “job” she wants to do. Could there be repercussions if we ask her not to come in again? And should we have provided her with any kind of agreement?
A: There is no legal obligation to provide volunteers with a written agreement but if you do provide one you need to ensure it places no obligation on the volunteer to carry out volunteering duties. Instead it should talk about your hopes and expectations for them to carry out duties requested by the organiser when they turn up to volunteer. You could also put into place a standard procedure for dealing with volunteer issues. Appoint someone within the organisation to deal with them and offer a right of appeal to the chairman of the trustees. If in any doubt about the agreement wording, or the procedure, you might consider it a justifiable expense to seek advice from a solicitor.
What you do need to bear in mind is that not putting the volunteer under any obligation to carry out their duties includes turning up for those duties. Therefore you must not tell them you intend to take action under internal procedures just because they haven’t turned up. Instead, you could simply tell them you have no further duties for them and will therefore have to terminate the agreement or arrangement, or you could offer them alternative duties on an ad hoc basis and say you will call them when needed. Provided you follow these guidelines and are not paying the volunteers for their services or providing them with goods or services in kind, they will not be employees and will not be able to bring a claim for unfair dismissal.