Your rights and responsibilities as a volunteer

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Volunteering is a serious commitment. Just because it is work that you do for free does not mean you can come and go as you please or do the job haphazardly. You have to remember that you are saying yes to certain responsibilities and tasks assigned to you at the time that they are needed. People will depend on you to do your job well. On the other hand, you also have rights. These ensure that you will be able to do your job well and protect you from possible liabilities.

So before you commit, be clear about your rights and responsibilities as a volunteer.

Your rights

As a volunteer, you have the right to:

  1. Receive an orientation
    Before you start in your role as a volunteer, they should tell you about the organization. You should learn its mission and your role in fulfilling this goal. You should also be briefed about the kind of environment that you will be working in and the people that you will meet, serve and report to. They should inform you about the organization’s policies especially about benefits you are entitled to, or about processes and protocols you must observe (e.g. timing-in, logging out, breaks, etc.).
  2. Get guidance and direction
    To be effective in your role, you should be clear about what you need to do and how you should accomplish them. You should be given clear instructions, support and supervision by the volunteer coordinator.
  3. Get training for your position
    You should be given training for your role to be equipped with the right skills and knowledge to fully execute your responsibilities.
  4. Be treated as an important part of the organization and be recognized for your contribution
    You should be treated with respect and be welcomed as an integral part of the organization. You should be heard and recognized for your contributions.
  5. Be provided a safe and supportive environment.
    The organization should ensure that you have a safe work environment so you can fulfill your responsibilities without any barriers. This includes a harassment-free environment that adheres to human rights.
  6. Be reimbursed for volunteer work-related expenses
    Ask your volunteer coordinator about reimbursements for expenses related to work. Some organizations offer transportation and parking reimbursement. Others provide bus tickets to volunteers. Reimbursements may depend on the type of expenses incurred and the organization’s funding.
  7. Have regular performance evaluations
    You should receive regular feedback about your work from your supervisor or coordinator.

Your responsibilities

As a volunteer, you have the responsibility to:

  1. Come as scheduled and on time
    You should be present on the date and time agreed upon. Make sure to inform your supervisor or coordinator if you cannot come to work. Give notice ahead of time so that arrangements can be made to cover your schedule.
  2. Carry out your tasks efficiently and honestly
    Performing your duties well and to the best of your abilities is expected when volunteering.
  3. Commit time for the work
    Some organizations require the completion of certain hours for a given period of time (for instance complete 50 hours in a year). If you agreed to this when you were accepted as a volunteer, then it is a commitment that you must fulfill.
  4. Accept guidance and decisions of the volunteer coordinator
    Most volunteers work under a volunteer supervisor and/or coordinator. They are your bosses. You can suggest ways by which things could be done, but the final decision lies with your bosses.
  5. Participate in orientations, trainings and meetings
    To learn more about your role and to acquire the proper knowledge and skills, you are expected to be present at trainings and meetings. If you have questions, suggestions or requests, these are the proper venues to raise them.
  6. Keep internal information confidential
    Being an integral part of the organization, you should not betray the trust given to you by your employer. Sensitive information about the organization and its clients must not be shared to the public. It can harm their operations. It can also get you into legal trouble.

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Community Resources

Read Building blocks for newcomers: A Guide on volunteering by Volunteer Canada. You can download the English or French version.

English Online accepts e-volunteers. Inquire today if you want to be an EAL e-Tutor, Career e-mentor, or a Settlement e-volunteer.

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