Guide to employment and human resources (HR)
All voluntary organisations need a set of Employment and Human Resources (HR) policies that should be followed when recruiting volunteers and employees, ensuring their rights are upheld in the workplace.
This guide explains how to establish an employment and HR process for your organisation, and the available HR support and resources for voluntary organisations.
If you are setting up an organisation for the first time, you will need to draft a formal set of employment and HR policies that can be taught and used throughout the organisation. You should be able to use these documents to safely steer your way through any employment and HR issues that arise.
We can help you seek pro bono legal advice that ensures your HR policies uphold your legal rights and responsibilities as an employer.
If you have an established organisation and need to develop or update existing HR policy, we provide advice on how to upgrade policies to reflect employment and HR standards and best practice in the voluntary sector.
Your policies should set out the relevant HR issues and procedures for your organisation. Here are some key issues that your policies should address:
Read a more exhaustive list of HR policy areas.
Human resources in voluntary organisations are largely made up of paid employees (including the managing director), volunteers and trustees. Each of these roles are distinct legal categories and should have separate yet clearly defined recruitment and employment procedures. Here’s a breakdown of what these roles are and how to recruit for them.
The role of the trustee is similar to that of senior advisor. Trustees provide strategic direction and navigate the organisation through obstacles and towards its goals. The board of trustees should ensure the organisation’s activities stay in line with its mission.
Trustees are recruited for the specialised expertise they can contribute to the organisation. The broader the range of expertise on your board, the more your organisation can achieve. You should recruit a new trustee when you need to fill a knowledge gap in your organisation, which might be digital development, business development, fundraising or financial expertise, for example.
Trustees aren’t paid, but work in a voluntary capacity. The role is prestigious and comes with a high level of responsibility. Trustees are assigned decision-making powers that impact the direction and future of the organisation.
Recruiting new trustees should be carefully planned. Here are some key considerations to make in the recruitment process:
Expertise: What skills gap do you need to fill?
Timeframe: When should you advertise a vacancy and should there be a deadline for applications?
People: Who should be involved in the recruitment and selection process?
Budget: How much will the recruitment process cost the organisation?
Read more about how to prepare for trustee recruitment at Reach Volunteer.
NCVO provides a structured course on how to recruit and induct trustees.
There are a number of ways you can recruit volunteers. Word of mouth, or referrals, are a great way to recruit because they come with a personal endorsement of the candidate. Getting a stall at a volunteer fair will give you an opportunity to promote your organisation and meet candidates keen to offer voluntary services.
‘When it comes to the recruitment process, remember that people are offering a gift of time, not seeking paid employment. Keep the process clear, application forms simple and the interview informal.’
You can advertise for volunteers online, on social media and on your organisation’s website. Charity websites often have a ‘get involved’ button to alert visitors to volunteering opportunities, for example.
Since your organisation will largely be supported by voluntary help, you’ll want to recruit people who are reliable and proactive. A volunteer should be a good fit for your organisation and its mission. You can find out if they are suitably matched by asking them why they want to volunteer for your organisation and what they want to achieve. The role should be mutually beneficial to the volunteer and organisation.
Read best practice in recruiting volunteers.
There are two approaches you can take to recruiting for a new role in your organisation: internally and externally. You might want to offer a position to someone already working with your organisation. This might be to offer a paid role to a volunteer, or promote an employee.
If the position for a senior role requires a very specific skill set, then advertising on job boards, collecting CVs and taking candidates through an interviewing process will enable you to find the person best suited to the role.
As a general rule, the number of internal recruits should be balanced with external recruits.
Ultimately, your organisation’s employment and HR policies should set out the rules for recruiting. Here is a set of questions to help you think about what the recruitment process should look like in your organisation:
You can make the job description as detailed as you need, but it should cover these basics:
This is a detailed profile description of the ideal candidate. It should include the person’s intangible skills such as communication, personality attributes and temperament required for the role.
If your organisation works with children or vulnerable adults, you’ll need to know how to conduct a risk assessment on a candidate and apply for a criminal record check (DBS). You can find more on NCVO, getting started with criminal record checks.
As an employer, you have a legal obligation to provide a contract of employment to the successful candidate. This is to ensure you both understand and agree on the role and responsibilities, the employee’s rights and salary, and any other terms of employment that must negotiated upfront, such as how much notice should be given if the contract is ended by either party. An employment contract will help to avoid misunderstandings that could otherwise lead to costly and possibly damaging legal action.
Employment contracts should be drawn up for your organisation. Read the full guide on GOV.UK.
Indeed is an online recruitment and job listing website that provides guidance on writing an employment contract with a template you can use.
Having to rely on limited funds means that voluntary organisations must operate on tight budgets with lean teams. It isn’t unusual for financial cutbacks to be made on staffing resources. However, reducing staff hours and announcing redundancies is a delicate process that must be handled with legal guidance. This also applies to cases for dismissal where a member of staff might be accused of misconduct, for example.
Pro-bono legal advice should be sought for the following HR issues:
If your organisation is facing an HR challenge which requires legal support, we can refer you to the right support.
Funding opportunities for employment and HR
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