Everyone should be able to make a difference through volunteering.
Whatever their background, your organisation should treat its volunteers with equity and fairness. It should also help them see how equity, diversity and inclusion relates to their role.
The Equality Act protects people against discrimination because of protected characteristics. It defines these as:
Volunteers aren't protected by the Equality Act because they aren't employees. But it would be very poor practice to discriminate against a volunteer.
In theory, the law could consider volunteering as a service offered to volunteers. This would mean the Equality Act would apply, but this has not been tested in court.
Learn more about what the Equality Act means for voluntary sector organisations.
Organisations that deliver services must uphold the Equality Act and avoid unlawful discrimination. This includes keeping people working for them safe from harassment or discrimination.
Volunteers will need to understand how the Equality Act relates to their role. They shouldn't discriminate against anyone who uses or is part of the service. This includes other volunteers and paid staff.
At induction, you should explain the organisation’s responsibility to be inclusive. Be clear what volunteers can do to support this and how you expect them to behave while volunteering.
Some examples might include:
Share your organisation's equal opportunities policy with your volunteers. Discuss it with them and give them the chance to ask questions about it.
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Having a diverse group of volunteers benefits organisations and the communities they serve.
To improve diversity among your volunteers:
Last reviewed: 12 April 2021Help us improve this content
Get specific guidance on how to engage and support volunteers during the covid-19 pandemic
A report into diversity in volunteering, published by NCVO in December 2020
Guidance to get started on improving your organisation's approach
An online training course from NCVO to help your organisation involve volunteers well
How to make sure volunteers have a positive end to their time with your organisation
Acknowledge volunteers' training and experience through a certificate, accreditation or qualification
Make sure you offer the right volunteer training to help your volunteers do their roles
How to thank your volunteers and show you appreciate their efforts
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