The inquiry’s call
to action was published in March this year and so far more than 70
organisations have signed up to the 3R promise.
The call to action progress group tasked with taking forward
the work of the Volunteer Rights Inquiry met for the first time on 17th June,
but I wonder if now is the right time to take forward the issues raised in
their call to action?
The essence of the inquiry’s work was
that it shouldn’t be so easy for volunteers to be dismissed, that they perhaps
needed better protection and that they certainly need better treatment by
volunteer involving organisations.
Then in May this year, The Independent ran an article
reporting on proposals by the Chancellor, George Osborne, to reduce the rights
of employees in the workplace. The
article reports that Osborne plans to “tear up sections of employment law so
businesses can dispose of their staff more easily”.
Just a quick glance at the comments people have left in
response to the article demonstrates the strength of feeling many people have
in response to the story.
It is this juxtaposition of government policy and Volunteer
Rights Inquiry recommendations that gives rise to my anxieties about whether it
is the right time to go forward with the call to action.
If the inquiry’s ideas are pursued now and the issues of
fair treatment of volunteers gains a much higher profile (however deserved that
is) then there is a danger that they could get associated with this politically
sensitive debate about employment rights in a society where jobs are being lost
daily. This could be very damaging
to volunteering, especially at a time of heightened anxiety about job
In such a context, despite the importance of the issues the
Volunteer Rights Inquiry highlighted, I do wonder if pursuing some of them –
like a complaints commissioner for volunteering or even legislation to protect
volunteer rights – might do more harm thand good to the image of volunteering in the current
What do you think? Should we be holding off pursuing the important issue raised
by the Volunteer Rights Inquiry because of wider debates and concerns about
employment rights and job displacement?
Or is now precisely the time to address volunteer rights issues?
Rob Jackson is director of
Rob Jackson Consulting