Reward asks the experts about whether companies should have to let their staff volunteer

big picture

“Employer-supported volunteering schemes have grown substantially in popularity. The Conservatives’ volunteering proposal is an exciting one and could be good news all round. Many charities need more help, while volunteering is an excellent way for staff to develop in a way that will benefit their employers. We know from our own scheme – which places high-flying corporate staff on charity boards – the amount of difference it can make for their employers as they develop new skills and perspectives. Staff volunteering leave could be an excellent way for businesses to deepen their links with their local communities. We look forward to seeing the details of the proposal.” Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive, NCVO

“Businesses should support their staff if they want to volunteer, but the architects of this idea cannot pretend that forcing firms to give an additional three days of paid leave will do anything other than add costs. David Cameron’s announcement not only undermines the Tory record on reducing business regulation, but it also puts extra pressure on public sector employers, and ultimately the taxpayer. Time off for charity work is a matter for managers and employees, not a target for heavy-handed government intervention. Frankly, the essence of volunteering is that it is voluntary. The IoD would welcome proposals to make it easier for companies to facilitate volunteering, but it has to be a choice.” Simon Walker, director general, Institute of Directors

“I certainly don’t think volunteering should be compulsory. Volunteering is time freely given – so if it’s compulsory it’s not volunteering. Having said that, we do think employee volunteering is a great concept. Research shows it helps staff develop leadership, decision-making and negotiation skills. It can boost morale and improve retention. But it’s important to recognise volunteering isn’t free. Charities invest substantially in volunteering, at a time when they are being called on to do more with less. If the government is going to put this into practice it needs to ensure there’s money behind it. We’ve always walked the volunteering talk by giving our staff five days’ leave each year to volunteer.” Helen Walker, CEO, TimeBank