A volunteer has made a complaint about their treatment. What should I do?

If a volunteer complains to you about any suspected criminal activity, it should be taken seriously and reported to the police.

In relation to any safeguarding issues, you should follow your club’s safeguarding procedure. For more information on these, visit Club Matters via the link below.

If a volunteer complains to you or reports any other unlawful activities, you should seek legal advice.

If the complaint involves other issues regarding the volunteer’s treatment, you will then need to establish whether it’s reasonable. If a volunteer has been left unsupervised and unsupported, has not been offered breaks or has been given a task they’re unable to perform and no help to perform it, then their complaint is likely to be reasonable. Having volunteer agreements in place will be useful here, as they will state not only how volunteers will ideally behave but also how they ought to be treated. If the complaint shows that your organisation has not met the standard it has set itself, then the complaint is valid. 

If the complaint is valid then the volunteer should be offered an apology and you should look at ways to prevent the situation happening again. It’s considered good practice that volunteer complaints are handled sensitively and through an agreed procedure.

However, volunteers don’t have the same rights or responsibilities as employees, and as a club you don’t have the same responsibilities to them that an employer has to its employees.

If a complaint is not deemed to be reasonable then you could discuss this with the volunteer, referencing the volunteer agreement if you have one. If you feel you’re meeting the standards you have set yourself as an organisation under the terms of this agreement then you may state this. It’s better to do this than ignore the complaint, as a volunteer who feels they have been ignored is highly likely to leave.

It’s helpful to have a complaints procedure that covers complaints by and about volunteers which you can refer to in these situations. This should be separate to any procedure you have for paid employees.

Volunteer Scotland has a good practice guide on challenging volunteer situations. 

See the following links for more information:

Club Matters - Child protection

Sport England – Should we have volunteer agreements in place?

Volunteer Scotland - Good practice guide