No matter what your structures there may be times when the performance or conduct of a volunteer falls below what is expected. Having a clear and established disciplinary process in place will prevent misunderstandings and seek to protect the volunteer and the organisation. This should be shared with all your volunteers.
The aim of the policy should be to encourage improvement in individual conduct and performance, and reduce the need for ‘counselling out’.
Do not be tempted to use any existing Disciplinary policy that you have for paid staff. Your volunteering Disciplinary policy has to be specific to volunteers.
Best Practice Guidelines for a Volunteer Disciplinary Procedure
The following are suggested best practice guidelines. How your committee or board chooses to tailor or adapt these will depend on the scale and management structure or your group or organisation.
Before any policy and procedure is invoked, conduct an informal meeting. Most problems can be resolved by informal discussions or counselling, and often this can avoid the need for formal disciplinary action. This may include mediation or additional training or support for the volunteer. An informal meeting would not be recorded as disciplinary action and would be seen as a process of constructive dialogue.
If the problem cannot be resolved informally with your volunteer, it might then be appropriate to invoke a disciplinary policy and procedure.
Stage 1 – Formal Verbal Warning
A formal verbal warning may be given to the volunteer if, despite informal discussions or training, the conduct or performance still does not meet acceptable standards. This should follow an appropriate disciplinary meeting delivered by the person within your group or organisation who is most relevant – this may be a committee member or perhaps a Volunteer Coordinator/Manager.
A brief note of the warning should be kept but, subject to satisfactory conduct and/or performance, this would lapse after 6 months.
Stage 2 – Written Warning
If there is no improvement in standards within the prescribed time, or if a further offence occurs, the volunteer should receive a letter from their manager inviting them to attend a further disciplinary meeting.
The disciplinary meeting should take place as soon as is reasonably possible, but with sufficient time for the volunteer to consider their response to the information contained in the letter. The meeting should be an opportunity for both the volunteer (with their representative) and the Manager to talk about the issues or allegations being made, consider the information with a view to establishing whether to progress the disciplinary action.
Following the disciplinary meeting, if it is decided that no further action is warranted, the volunteer should be informed in writing. here the volunteer is found to be performing unsatisfactorily or their behaviour is deemed unsatisfactory they will be given a written warning. copy of the written warning should be kept on file but the warning will lapse after 12 months subject to satisfactory conduct and/or performance. Where a written warning is given, the Chair of the Board of Directors should be advised and kept up to date with any progress.
Stage 3 – Final Written Warning
If the conduct or performance still remains unsatisfactory by the stipulated date, or if the misconduct is sufficiently serious to warrant only one written warning, a further disciplinary meeting (where the Director will be present) should be called with the employee and their representative. The disciplinary meeting will be an opportunity for the volunteer to answer the issues raised. Were this meeting establishes that there has been a failure to improve or change behaviour, then a final written warning should be given to the volunteer.
Final Stage – Dismissal
If the volunteer’s conduct or performance still fails to improve or if further serious misconduct occurs, the final stage in the disciplinary process may be instituted and the volunteer dismissed.
Where a volunteer is found guilty of gross misconduct, they would normally be subject to summary dismissal (instant dismissal without notice) and the above procedures regarding progression of warnings should not apply.
Examples of gross misconduct might include:-
• deliberate falsification of expenses claims
• disclosure of confidential information (see confidentiality policy)
• convictions of a criminal offence that undermine a person’s suitability for volunteering
• provision of false information relevant to a person’s volunteering position
• consistently poor attendance on a project, without appropriate notification
• use of abusive or offensive language or behaviour
• bullying or harassment
• being under the influence of alcohol or drugs
• theft of property or misuse of equipment or materials
• failure to abide by policies and procedures
• failure to satisfactorily perform assigned duties
If a volunteer wishes to appeal against any disciplinary decision, this should be made in writing within five working days of the decision being communicated to them, to the relevant person on the board.