The Westmeath Volunteer Centre recognises that in our society certain individuals and groups of people are unfairly discriminated against, both directly and indirectly. They are denied equality of opportunity on the grounds of age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, caring responsibilities, mental or physical health/disability, race, colour, nationality, ethnic/national origin), political or religious beliefs, economic status, criminal record, trade union activity, or a combination of any of these. We strive to eliminate all such forms of discrimination and to create a climate in which equal opportunities are promoted as a means of developing the full potential of everyone who is involved with our organisation. We do this by fulfilling our legal obligations and by taking positive action which goes beyond the requirements of the law, but by avoiding stereotyping and tokenism.
The purpose of this document is to provide guidance on all aspects of equal opportunities at the Westmeath Volunteer Centre. We are always seeking ways in which we can improve our record on equal opportunities.
The Westmeath Volunteer Centre Manager is responsible for ensuring that the policy and the procedures in this document are implemented efficiently and effectively. All other staff and volunteers (including voluntary management committee members) are expected to facilitate this process.
These procedures list the measures that must be taken in order to fulfil the policy. They must be adhered to at all times. If they are breached, the appropriate procedures (e.g. complaints, grievance or disciplinary) may be used to resolve the problem and to make improvements. Anyone who chooses to take such action will not be penalised by the organisation or treated less favourably as a result.
The Westmeath Volunteer Centre has a public role and we recognise that the services we deliver should ideally be performed by workers who are representative of the diverse community in which we operate. In order to achieve this, the Westmeath Volunteer Centre aims to be an equal opportunities employer; optimising on available human resources and ensuring fairness to potential and actual employees.
Westmeath Volunteer Centre staff are recruited and selected on objective criteria that test the relevant skills, knowledge, experience, qualifications and personal qualities necessary for posts. No applicants are placed at a disadvantage by requirements which are not genuine occupational qualifications, as this would constitute indirect discrimination. This does not preclude the setting of certain legitimate limits and exclusions, however. Examples are a retirement age of 65, banning those with a criminal record of abuse from working with vulnerable groups of people, not employing immigrants without work permits, etc. Job vacancies are advertised as widely as possible and make reference to the operation of an equal opportunities policy to which staff are expected to adhere.
We provide training opportunities to all our staff to meet their training needs. If appropriate, this may include assertiveness training for those individuals who have little confidence as a result of belonging to a disadvantaged group. All members of staff receive suitable and relevant equal opportunities training and are provided with a copy of this document.
2.4 Other conditions of employment
(Further details of these are found in the Westmeath Volunteer Centre staff policies and procedures document.) The Westmeath Volunteer Centre is open to flexible working arrangements, such as job sharing, part-timing, flexi-timing, career development initiatives, etc., which enable members of staff to juggle their competing time demands more efficiently. The Westmeath Volunteer Centre is sensitive to the time and other constraints under which people operate as a result of their socio-economic situation and cultural background. Meetings, events and the like, are arranged as far as practicable in a way that takes into consideration the needs of current and potential staff members (in terms of timing of meetings, childcare arrangements, religious holidays, etc.). All service conditions are reviewed regularly to ensure that they do not discriminate against any particular group and instead provide for the varying needs of the staff team
The positive and open attitude towards recruitment, selection and day-to-day treatment of Westmeath Volunteer Centre staff is also extended to Westmeath Volunteer Centre volunteers and the conditions described above therefore also apply to management committee volunteers and other volunteers. The Westmeath Volunteer Centre expects its volunteers to share its commitment to equal opportunities and ensures that each one receives a copy of this document. (Further information is given in the Westmeath Volunteer Centre volunteer policy and procedures document.)
3.2 Adapting to volunteer’s needs
We actively look for ways in which we can achieve adequate representation amongst our volunteers, in terms of the community in which we operate. We will only be successful in attracting a wide range of people if we adapt to the needs of individual volunteers. The Westmeath Volunteer Centre is able to be much more flexible with volunteers than it can be with paid staff, for example by changing a role description to suit a volunteer’s interests and abilities.
4.1 Our work with volunteers
The Westmeath Volunteer Centre believes that everyone has the right to volunteer and to have equal access to volunteering opportunities, without experiencing discrimination. We also wish the organisations with which we work to benefit from a true mix of available volunteers and we therefore closely monitor the potential volunteers who register with us. Our ?matching? service will try to redress any apparent imbalances, by using initiatives to target volunteers from underrepresented groups.
4.2 Our work with volunteer-involving organisations
The Westmeath Volunteer Centre provides a variety of services to organisations that are run by, which involve, or which wish to involve volunteers. We will consider assisting and working with any such organisation, provided that its ethos and operations do not contravene Westmeath Volunteer Centre policy. In addition, we actively seek to work with a very broad range of organisations, so that potential volunteers for the ?matching? service have as wide a choice of volunteering options as possible.
In order to bring our message to volunteers, organisations and the general public, we publicise the Westmeath Volunteer Centre as widely as resources will allow, using as many media as possible. We aim to be inclusive by using positive imagery of, and making reference to, all types of people. The language in our publications is clear and non-discriminatory. We publicise our commitment to equal opportunities whenever appropriate. A copy of this document is available to anyone who requests it.
4.4 Premises, facilities and equipment
The Westmeath Volunteer Centre strives to make the physical environment in which we operate as attractive and user-friendly as possible for everyone; volunteers, staff and visitors. This mainly involves the Westmeath Volunteer Centre office, but also premises elsewhere used for any Westmeath Volunteer Centre events and meetings. Healthy and safe conditions for everyone are of paramount. Special provisions, such as wheelchair access and extended opening hours, are made for people with special needs wherever viable.
5.1 Our approach
The Westmeath Volunteer Centre is committed to social justice and equality and believes that everyone involved with the organisation has the right to freedom from harassment, whether this is on the basis of disability, race, sex, sexual orientation or any other grounds. The Westmeath Volunteer Centre does not condone any harassment whatsoever, whether it is verbal, written, physical, sexual, to person or property, intentional or not. Any such harassment, abuse or victimisation will be dealt with severely and quickly, using the disciplinary procedure in the case of a member of staff and any other appropriate form of action with anyone else.
6.1 Success of policy
The Westmeath Volunteer Centre monitors, reviews and evaluates the success of its equal opportunities policy and procedures on a regular basis and seeks to make ongoing improvements. It also studies its other policies and procedures to see that they do not operate against this policy and can be improved in terms of equal opportunities. The Westmeath Volunteer Centre is always on the lookout for new ideas to improve the equal opportunities performance of the organisation.
Constructive feedback on this document is always welcome. It must be given to the Westmeath Volunteer Centre Manager who will ensure that the management committee considers it.
This document will be reviewed by the management committee on an annual basis, or sooner if circumstances change.
The Westmeath Volunteer Centre is committed to providing a professional and efficient service in supporting volunteerism in Westmeath. We recognise that in order to achieve our goals we need to involve volunteers in our own work too. It is also essential that we present a model of good practice in volunteer management. We regard volunteers as a valuable resource and encourage them to get involved at all levels of the organisation and within all appropriate activities. We aim to train, support and supervise our volunteers to the best of our abilities, and to act quickly and fairly if difficulties arise.
1.1 Purpose of document
The purpose of this internal document is to provide guidance on all aspects of volunteering at the Westmeath Volunteer Centre. It does not constitute a binding contract. It supplements other Westmeath Volunteer Centre policies and procedures, as well as our definition of volunteering, our mission statement and our value base. These procedures apply to all non-elected volunteers who undertake tasks on behalf and at the direction of the Westmeath Volunteer Centre.
The Westmeath Volunteer Centre. Manager is responsible for ensuring that the policy and the procedures in this document are implemented efficiently and effectively. All other staff and volunteers (including voluntary management committee members) are expected to facilitate this process.
The Westmeath Volunteer Centre will consider involving anyone as a volunteer. Individuals must, however, be able to demonstrate a commitment to the aims of the organisation and may only be placed if their needs as volunteers match the needs of the organisation. No person who has a conflict of interest with any aspect of the organisation will be accepted as a volunteer. Voluntary management committee members may not undertake other voluntary work within the Westmeath Volunteer Centre itself, but will be encouraged and supported by the Westmeath Volunteer Centre if they wish to volunteer elsewhere.
1.4 Relationship with paid staff (Where applicable)
Volunteers are appointed to enhance the capacity of paid staff (including Community Employment workers), not as a substitute for them. Conversely, the Westmeath Volunteer Centre does not accept the services of its paid staff as volunteers. Clear roles are established to differentiate between paid staff and volunteers to foster mutually beneficial and complementary relationships.
1.5 Working conditions
Volunteers are treated as full members of the Westmeath Volunteer Centre team. They are treated as equally and fairly as paid staff and are included in the organisations, functions and decision-making processes wherever practical. Volunteers are provided with appropriate work sites and have access to the space, equipment and facilities necessary to volunteer effectively and comfortably.
1.6 Working times
Working times are negotiated between the Westmeath Volunteer Centre Manager and the volunteer and are as flexible as the tasks allow. Voluntary time commitment is never expected to match that of full-time paid staff, but unscheduled absences can create organisational problems. When expecting to be absent, volunteers should inform their supervisor as soon as possible, so that alternative arrangements can be made.
1.7 Appropriate behaviour
Volunteers are expected to work within the policies and procedures of the Westmeath Volunteer Centre and adhere to its ethos. As representatives of the organisation, they are responsible for presenting a positive image of the Westmeath Volunteer Centre to the outside world.
1.8 Representation of the Westmeath Volunteer Centre.
Volunteers must seek prior approval from the Westmeath Volunteer Centre Manager before undertaking anything that might affect the organisation. This includes, but is not limited to, statements to the press, joint initiatives with other bodies, and agreements involving contractual or financial obligations.
The Westmeath Volunteer Centre respects the volunteer’s right to privacy and confidentiality. In turn, volunteers are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of all privileged information to which they are exposed while volunteering with the Westmeath Volunteer Centre.
A system of records is maintained on all volunteers, including dates and times of service, duties performed, evaluation of work, etc. Volunteer records are accorded the same confidentiality as staff records.
1.11 Service at the discretion of the Westmeath Volunteer Centre.
Any voluntary service is at the discretion of the Westmeath Volunteer Centre. The Westmeath Volunteer Centre may, at any time, and for whatever reason, decide to terminate volunteer’s relationships with the organisation. Similarly, volunteers may at any time, and for whatever reason, decide to terminate their relationships with the Westmeath Volunteer Centre. Notice of such decisions should be communicated at the earliest opportunity, preferably in writing.
2.1 Role descriptions and person specifications
Like paid staff, volunteers require a clear and accurate description of the tasks and responsibilities they are expected to undertake. Prior to any volunteer assignment or recruitment effort, a role description must be developed for each voluntary opportunity. This must include a title of the volunteering role, starting and finishing dates, hours and place of work, name of supervisor and tasks to be undertaken. If appropriate, a brief person specification may also be drawn up. The role description may be amended in joint agreement with the volunteer and the Westmeath Volunteer Centre Manager. A copy of the final version must be given to the volunteer before commencing voluntary work, as it will be used in supervision and evaluation sessions. Role descriptions must define a time limit (no longer than one year) for voluntary involvement, after which time they are reviewed, and updated if appropriate.
Volunteers are recruited on a pro-active basis by the organisation using publicity avenues that are suitable for the roles that need to be filled. Potential volunteers may also apply speculatively or come via the volunteer placement service provided by the Westmeath Volunteer Centre. Volunteers are recruited in accordance with the Westmeath Volunteer Centre’s equal opportunities policy. All volunteers are required to complete an application form.
If necessary, applications are short listed and suitable candidates are invited to attend an informal chat with the Westmeath Volunteer Centre. Manager, to ascertain their interest in and suitability for the role. Written records of all interviews are kept. All unsuccessful candidates are thanked for applying and encouraged to reapply for other volunteering opportunities, either current or in the future.
2.4 Checks for suitability
References are always taken up. If the role requires it, health (mental and physical) is also undertaken. Other checks may also be completed (for example, ascertaining professional qualifications). Volunteers are always warned in advance of the intention to make these checks. If they refuse permission and cannot provide an acceptable reason, they will not be placed.
Formal appointments are made only after the role description has been agreed and all necessary checks have proved acceptable. No placements are made unless the requirements of the volunteer and the volunteer’s supervisor can be met.
All placements are subject to an initial trial period of one month. At the end of this period, the Westmeath Volunteer Centre Manager meets with the volunteer to discuss the volunteer’s suitability for their role. At this point, volunteers may continue in their current role, be reassigned to a more suitable role, or be asked to leave.
All volunteers receive induction when they begin voluntary work with the Westmeath Volunteer Centre. This consists of a general introduction to the organisation, as well as a specific orientation on the purposes and requirements of their volunteering role.
3.2 On-the-job training
Volunteers receive initial and ongoing on-the-job training to provide them with the information and skills necessary to perform their tasks well. The training must be appropriate for the demands of the position and the capabilities of the volunteer.
3.3 Additional training
Volunteers are actively encouraged to identify training courses, seminars, conferences, and so on, which would help them to perform their roles better and which would aid their personal development. Approval to undertake such training free-of-charge must be given by the Westmeath Volunteer Centre Manager and this will only be done if sufficient funds are available. Priority is given to long standing volunteers and those who have received little or no training in the past.
3.4 Training information
If additional training was paid for by the Westmeath Volunteer Centre, any course or other materials belong to the organisation and must be filed in the Westmeath Volunteer Centre office. All volunteers are required to submit a short report outlining the content and usefulness of the course or meeting attended. Training information must be disseminated to relevant people within the organisation.
4.1 Lines of communication
Lines of communication should operate in both directions and should exist formally and informally. Volunteers must have access to all appropriate information, memos, materials and meetings relevant to their assignments. Volunteers must be consulted on all decisions that would substantially affect their volunteering conditions.
Each volunteer must have a clearly identified supervisor who is responsible for the day-to-day management of that volunteer. The Westmeath Volunteer Centre Manager normally takes on the supervisor’s role, but all staff members receive training and guidance on how to involve volunteers effectively in the work of the organisation.
4.3 Supervision sessions
Volunteers receive regular appraisals of their work, based on their role descriptions. Evaluation sessions take place at least once a month between the volunteer and his or her supervisor. These review the performance of the volunteer, suggest any changes in work style, seek suggestions from the volunteer on means of enhancing the volunteer’s relationship with the Westmeath Volunteer Centre, convey appreciation to the volunteer and ascertain the continued interest of the volunteer in serving in his or her role. The sessions also serve as an opportunity to plan future tasks.
4.4 Corrective action
If appropriate, corrective action may be taken following evaluation sessions. Examples include the organisation of training for an identified training need, the reassignment of a volunteer, or the dismissal of a volunteer.
Volunteers who do not adhere to the organisation’s rules or who fail to perform their volunteer assignments satisfactorily may be subject to dismissal. No volunteers’ involvement will be terminated in writing until the volunteer has had an opportunity to discuss the reasons for possible dismissal with their supervisor. Grounds for dismissal include, but are not limited to, the following: gross misconduct, being under the influence of drugs (including alcohol), theft, misuse of equipment and materials, abuse of clients and co-workers, breaches of confidentiality, failure to abide by Westmeath Volunteer Centre policies and procedures and failure to complete duties to a satisfactory standard.
4.6 Concerns and grievances
If volunteers are not satisfied that issues relating to their volunteering are being handled appropriately, they are entitled to have their concerns reviewed by the management committee. The management committee will discuss the issue as soon as practical after receiving a written complaint, and take appropriate action. The chair of the management committee makes the ultimate decision.
4.7 Exit interviews
Where possible, informal exit interviews are held with any volunteers who are leaving the organisation, either because they have reached the end of their project, or are leaving for some other reason. Interviews are usually conducted with the volunteer’s ex-supervisor and written records are kept. The session should ascertain why the volunteer is leaving, how they found the volunteering experience and what suggestions they offer to improve the way the organisation operates. The offer of a personal reference for future employment etc. is made to each volunteer.
The Westmeath Volunteer Centre endeavours to provide the support necessary to encourage and empower volunteers to make a meaningful contribution and gain significant benefits from their voluntary work. Support forms part of the regular supervision sessions and gives volunteers a safe setting in which to express themselves, let off steam and discuss how they feel about volunteering. The Westmeath Volunteer Centre manager will always try to be available to volunteers who require support in other areas that are affecting their performance.
Volunteers provide a unique service to the Westmeath Volunteer Centre, the benefits of which are difficult to quantify. It is essential that their efforts are recognised and rewarded. Westmeath Volunteer Centre staff is responsible for thanking all volunteers informally on a regular basis for the valuable contribution that they make to the organisation. The Westmeath Volunteer Centre Manager is responsible for ensuring that more formalised recognition takes place at key times.
Volunteers give their time and skills free of charge, so it is essential that the Westmeath Volunteer Centre offers to reimburse any out-of-pocket expenses they may incur in the course of undertaking voluntary work for the organisation. The costs of volunteering should never be allowed to discourage those on low incomes. Current rates and procedures for claiming expenses are agreed by the management committee and publicised to all volunteers.
Insurance is provided by the Westmeath Volunteer Centre to cover all volunteers working on behalf and at the direction of the organisation.
5.5 Personal and vocational development
Volunteers are encouraged to develop their skills while involved with the organisation and are assisted into assuming additional and greater responsibilities over time, if they desire this.
6.1 Westmeath Volunteer Centre volunteer involvement. The Westmeath Volunteer Centre monitors and evaluates volunteer involvement in the organisation on a regular basis and seeks to make ongoing improvements.
Constructive feedback on this document is always welcome. It must be given to the Westmeath Volunteer Centre. Manager who will ensure that it is considered fully.
People are the most important asset of the Westmeath Volunteer Centre . Members of staff play a particularly important part in executing the work of the organisation. They perform a central role; providing a link between the management committee and other volunteers, and representing the organisation on a day-to-day basis. Westmeath Volunteer Centre therefore recognises that it is crucial to recruit employees with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to work on its behalf. Furthermore, it acknowledges the importance of valuing and supporting its staff; training and remunerating them adequately for the jobs they do. It provides appropriate processes of supervision and appraisal to allow the staff to realise their potential in the work place. If things do go wrong, however, it has procedures in place to solve problems as quickly and smoothly as possible. In essence, the Westmeath Volunteer Centre strives for a high level of morale in a hard working team, which allows the organisation to flourish and achieve its goals.
The purpose of this internal document is to provide guidance on all aspects of paid employment at the Westmeath Volunteer Centre. It applies to all staff, whether permanent, temporary, full-time, part-time, or on an employment scheme (for example, Community Employment).
The Westmeath Volunteer Centre Manager is responsible for ensuring that the policy and the procedures in this document are implemented efficiently and effectively. All other staff and volunteers (including voluntary management committee members) are expected to facilitate this process.
These procedures list the measures, which must be taken in order to fulfil the policy. They must be adhered to at all times.
The basic aim of recruitment – getting the right person for the job – is the basis for decision making at all stages of the recruitment process. Recruitment takes place within an anti-discriminatory framework, in accordance with the Westmeath Volunteer Centre equal opportunities policy.
2.2 Recruitment panel
For each job vacancy at the Westmeath Volunteer Centre, the management committee will appoint a recruitment panel that deals with the recruitment, selection and appointment of staff. This panel usually consists of the chair of the management committee, the Westmeath Volunteer Centre Manager and one other person, but in any case no less than two people. Members of staff should not sit on the panel if their successor is being recruited. Friends and family of applicants should not serve on the panel to prevent conflicts of interest. The panel is responsible for drawing up and adhering to a realistic recruitment timetable. The panel is accountable to the management committee.
2.3 Job analysis
When a job becomes vacant or a new post is being considered, there is an opportunity to form a clear view of the work that is being done in the organisation and implement changes and improvements. The following information should be ascertained: the purpose of the job
• its position in the organisation
• its main duties and responsibilities
• specific tasks
• how these tasks relate to the work of others
• what personal qualities and competencies are required for the job.
The management committee must approve the job analysis.
2.4 Job description
Using the information from the job analysis, a job description is drawn up by the recruitment panel. A job description has a dual function; it tells prospective candidates what the job involves, but also defines the parameters within which the post holder must eventually work. Descriptions must be accurate, objective, consistent, measurable and quantifiable and must contain the following information:
• name and address of employer
• job title
• who s/he will be responsible for
• who s/he will be answerable to
• overall purpose of the job
• key areas of work
• where the job is based
• hours of work (including unsociable hours/absences from home, if applicable)
• Length of service and probation period
• How and when the job description will be reviewed and updated.
• Pension scheme if applicable
2.5 Person specification
Once the panel is satisfied with the job description, the person specification is drawn up. This is a key tool in effective recruitment, as it is the most important safeguard against subjectivity against which prospective candidates are judged. It sets out all the skills, knowledge, experience, qualifications and personal qualities which are required of the post holder. Essential and desirable qualities for the job must be ranked in order of importance. Paid work and formal qualifications must not be overemphasised. The clearer the person specification, the easier the process of selection will be.
Where and how a vacancy is advertised will depend on the level of skills and experience required for the job, the nature of the work, the time scale for recruitment and the budget available. Ideally, it must be advertised as widely as possible, using as many of the following forms as practicable: local and national newspapers, specialist press, FAS, community groups and their newsletters, educational establishments, etc.
The advertisement must contain:
• organisation’s name (and logo if possible)
• job title
• hours of work
• whether or not the job is open to job share (all jobs should be open to job sharing, unless there are very good reasons preventing this).
• summary of criteria drawn from the person specification
• salary range
• where post holder will be based
• closing date for applications
• interview date
• contact details for interested applicants
• a statement saying that the Westmeath Volunteer Centre is an equal opportunities employer.
Potential applicants must be sent an enquiry pack, which contains:
• covering letter; thanking the enquirer for expressing an interest in the Westmeath Volunteer Centre, giving background information on the post, referring to the organisation’s equal opportunities policy and reiterating the closing and interview dates
• background information on the Westmeath Volunteer Centre
• job description
• person specification
• application form (this may be dispensed with if a CV with covering letter is deemed more appropriate for the post)
2.7 Confidentiality in recruitment
The recruitment panel is entrusted with personal information about applicants, which is confidential. At no time during or after the recruitment process must the panel make use of or disclose to a third party this confidential information, other than for the purpose for which it was intended. The recruitment panel will not contact the applicants current employer without prior consent from the applicant.
The recruitment panel meets as soon as possible after the closing date of the applications to narrow down the number of applicants that can reasonably be interviewed. Using the person specification, the panel rates each candidate. Throughout the process, panellists must avoid making assumptions and must rate only according to the information provided on the application form/CV. The applications of current staff will be treated on an equal basis with external applications. Reasons for the shortlisting decision about each candidate will be recorded.
All unsuccessful candidates will be written to, to express regret that they have not been shortlisted and wishing them success in their job search. Shortlisted candidates, who will normally number no less than three, will be invited for interview. They must be contacted as soon as possible after the shortlisting, giving details of how and when to get to the venue and whether or not they are expected to undertake any further tests.
The panel should meet in advance of the interviews to re-read the interviewees’ application forms and determine what questions will be asked. Particular attention must be paid to aspects that were difficult to test on the application form. The same members of the panel must ask all interviewees the same questions. It is acceptable, however, to ask follow-up questions, to clarify what has been said, to probe more deeply, and to seek examples. The panel must take notes. The interview should cover the following:
• introducing the panel
• telling the interviewee how the interview will progress
• telling her/him a little about the job
• clarifying any information on the application form
• asking the pre-defined questions
• providing an opportunity for the interviewee to ask questions and go over anything again
• checking evidence of formal qualifications
• telling her/him what happens next.
2.10 Other forms of assessment
Some skills are difficult to test on application forms and in interviews. The panel may therefore decide to ask shortlisted candidates to undergo further tests; for example, undertaking a short presentation, completing a typing or numerical test, writing a report, etc. If this is the case, candidates will be given sufficient notice.
2.11 Selection and rejection
The final decision about who to appoint will be made with reference to the criteria set out in the person specification. The panel must come to a joint decision about which candidate will be offered the job; no one can abdicate responsibility. If no one proves suitable for the post, the vacancy will be re-advertised. Whilst this will mean more work and inconvenience in the short term, the long-term benefits will far outweigh the initial inconvenience.
The successful candidate may now be offered the job, subject to satisfactory references. These must be taken up at once, and must check the facts on the application form, as well as seeking judgements on the applicant’s competence for the job sought. Information should also be sought about sickness record, time keeping and disciplinary matters. Only when the panel is satisfied with the references should the applicant receive a written offer with details of starting date, salary, induction and the date by which s/he must give written acceptance. A copy of the staff policy and procedures document will also be sent.
Whilst it is seemingly unfair to delay notifying the unsuccessful candidates up till now, it is possible that the successful candidate will refuse the job or is unable to provide satisfactory references. If there is a close ‘second best’ candidate, who has already been told that they have been rejected, it is difficult for the panel to re-contact them to offer them the job. Unsuccessful candidates must therefore be informed in writing as soon as the ultimate decision has been reached; thanking them for attending, expressing regret that that they have not been selected and offering feedback on their application form and interview performance if they desire this.
New employees will be contacted as soon as possible after notifying them about their appointment, with specific instructions about the starting day and their initial period at work. It is imperative that the Westmeath Volunteer Centre is fully prepared for the arrival of new recruits, so that they receive a good impression of the organisation and find out what is expected of them. This is only possible through a well-organised induction programme which covers all the necessary paperwork, as well as ensuring that new workers get to know the organisation, their colleagues, their own jobs and the external environment in which they will be working.
The length of the induction will depend on the nature of the post but will, in all cases, cover the following:
• signing the contract of employment, with copies for both the employee and the Westmeath Volunteer Centre
• meeting co-workers (including volunteers) and finding out about their jobs and roles
• meeting management committee members
• meeting other relevant people
• touring the work place and learning to use any equipment
• gaining familiarity with all Westmeath Volunteer Centre policies
• becoming aware of all essential Westmeath Volunteer Centre procedures
• reading all relevant materials (both those produced by the Westmeath Volunteer Centre and others)
• attending relevant meetings
• supervision session(s) to give a detailed introduction to the job and to identify any urgent training needs
3.3 Probationary period
Normally, posts are offered subject to a probationary period of three to six months. This period overlaps with, but is separate from, the induction process. Induction is about learning, whilst probation is an opportunity for both the employer and the employee to decide whether they are suited to each other. During the probationary period, the employee will be fully assisted in becoming familiar with the demands of the post and will be advised on her/his progress. A formal review will be held shortly before the end of the probationary period. If the work is unsatisfactory, the employee should be told clearly what the problems are and what standards are required. Similarly, if the employee is unsatisfied with the conditions of her/his employment, reasonable complaints will be dealt with swiftly and fairly. At the end of the probationary period, the management committee may:
• confirm the appointment, if it is satisfied with the work of the employee
• extend the probationary period by a specified amount of time, if not wholly satisfied with the worker’s performance, but in the hope of it improving soon
• terminate the contract of employment, if it is not satisfied with the employee’s work.
These decisions will be notified in writing. Either party can terminate employment during the probationary period, provided the required notice, as specified in the contract of employment, is given.
In addition to the induction programme for new workers, most staff will, from time to time, need and want further training. Provided that it is properly analysed and resourced, training can enhance the professional and personal development of the Westmeath Volunteer Centre’s individual employees and widen the skills base of the organisation as a whole.
All staff are eligible for training whilst working for the Westmeath Volunteer Centre. Permanent full-time staff are, in general, entitled to more training than temporary and part-time employees. Training is prioritised in the following order:
• initial training – all new staff will receive the training necessary to enable them to carry out their jobs as soon as possible after commencing employment (all employees will receive guidance on how to work effectively with volunteers).
• continuing training – training to enable staff to do their jobs better will be identified on an ongoing basis.
• staff development training – this is particularly important for enhancing staff morale, and training opportunities will be identified when possible.
4.3 Resourcing training
Effective training can only take place if it is adequately resourced, both in terms of time and money. The Westmeath Volunteer Centre will earmark sufficient funds for training each year and employees may spend a reasonable amount of time on training as part of their working hours. Staff can apply for financial assistance and/or time off to undertake training. Each case will be considered on its own merits and the resources available at the time.
4.4 Types of training
Training comes in many guises. It may be done in-house or externally and includes:
• on-the-job training
• work shadowing
• visiting other organisations/inviting outside organisations to the Westmeath Volunteer Centre
• attending conferences, workshops, lectures and seminars
• one-off training sessions
• longer courses (often accredited)
• distance learning.
The supervisor decides in conjunction with the relevant member(s) of staff what type of training is most appropriate to satisfy the training needs that have been identified. If the amount of money and/or time spent on a particular type of training is considered to be higher than normal, prior approval from the management committee must be sought before committing to it.
4.5 Training information and feedback
If training was paid for by the Westmeath Volunteer Centre, any course or other materials belong to the organisation and must be filed in the Westmeath Volunteer Centre office. All staff are required to submit a short report outlining the content and usefulness of the course or meeting attended. Training information must be disseminated to relevant people within the organisation.
The Westmeath Volunteer Centre aims to promote good practice in the work place, by providing fair remuneration and attractive working conditions for its staff. It is always open to suggestions and actively seeks ways of improving the benefits package of its employees. Ideas that are viable, both practically and financially, will be pursued.
Each job in the organisation is graded on the basis of a job evaluation and by comparison with similar organisations. Salaries are reviewed on a regular basis to check if scales are still appropriate. Rates of pay and payment methods are specified in the contract of employment.
5.3 Hours of work
These are specified in the contract of employment. If an employee is required to work unsociable hours and/or have regular absences from home, this is made clear at the time of recruitment. Any substantial increase in the requirement to work under such conditions will be negotiated with the employee concerned. All employees are expected to keep a written record of times worked. Time off in lieu is granted for all hours worked in excess of the normal working week, in agreement with the employee’s line manager.
5.4 Annual leave
The annual leave entitlement for each employee is set out in his or her contract of employment. The Westmeath Volunteer Centre expects all staff to take their full entitlement, but does not encourage them to use their annual entitlement in one go. Staff are required to give adequate notice and obtain consent from their supervisor before making leave arrangements. Employees joining the organisation after the beginning of the leave year are granted pro rata leave in their first leave year. Employees who are leaving the organisation before the end of the leave year, are entitled to take pro rata leave in that year. The Westmeath Volunteer Centre reserves the right to reclaim salary for leave already taken in excess of that entitlement.
5.5 Public holidays
All regular part time employees (i.e. those who have worked for a minimum of 8 hours per week for at least 13 weeks) and full time employees are also entitled to the nine public holidays per year. Part time and day-to-day employees who have worked 120 hours in the 5 weeks preceding the public holiday are also entitled to the public holiday.
5.6 Sick leave Conditions for sick leave are outlined in the contract of employment. Employees who are unable to report for work (or someone on their behalf) should contact their supervisor within one hour of their normal starting time, explaining their absence and giving a probable time for their return to work. If the employee is going to be absent for a period longer than 3 days, they must produce a doctors certificate. If, during annual leave, an employee falls sick and produces a medical certificate to that effect, the period of sickness will be recorded as sick leave, not annual leave.
5.7 Maternity leave
All female employees are entitled to take maternity leave, which consists of 14 consecutive weeks’ paid leave, plus 4 weeks’ unpaid leave, plus additional unpaid leave for ante- and post-natal care. During maternity leave, the employee is entitled to full pay less any social welfare benefits payable on foot of her social insurance. She must provide a medical certificate confirming pregnancy and give at least one month’s written notice of her intention to take leave and the intended date of return. In special circumstances, the Westmeath Volunteer Centre may grant further unpaid leave to the employee.
5.8 Paternity leave
A male employee will be entitled, when appropriate, to paid paternity leave of 5 days. In exceptional circumstances, this leave may be extended at the discretion of the Westmeath Volunteer Centre.
5.9 Adoptive leave
Adoptive leave is available to all adoptive mothers and sole adoptive fathers and consists of 10 weeks paid leave, plus 4 weeks unpaid leave.
The employee must give at least one month’s written notice of the intention to take adoptive leave before the expected placement of the child.
5.10 Special leave
The Westmeath Volunteer Centre will consider requests for compassionate leave, trade union duties, careers breaks, secondments and other reasons on their merits. Leave may be either paid or unpaid. Employees are granted paid leave to attend for jury service.
5.11 Employment allowances
The Westmeath Volunteer Centre will reimburse any out-of-pocket expenses staff incur in the course of working for the organisation. Legitimate expenses are: travel undertaken during the course of work, subsistence when away from the normal place of work, telephone and similar expenses made privately for and on behalf of the Westmeath Volunteer Centre. Privately owned motor vehicles must be insured for business use and the Westmeath Volunteer Centre will reimburse the employee if this entails any additional costs. Current rates and procedures for claiming expenses are agreed by the management committee and publicised to all staff.
5.12 Personal files and confidentiality
A file is kept on each employee recording recruitment information, salary, statutory sick and maternity pay, appraisal records, etc. Employees are entitled to inspect their own files, but not those of other members of staff.
All staff are required to maintain confidentiality in respect of matters which come to their knowledge in the course of their work, both when they are working for the organisation and when they cease employment with the organisation.
Staff perform best if they are committed and enthusiastic, feel valued, know what they are supposed to be doing, and get credit for doing it well. Good procedures for supervision and support are vital tools in achieving this. The management committee and all individual members of staff also have a responsibility to work well as a team in order to achieve the goals of the Westmeath Volunteer Centre.
The Westmeath Volunteer Centre Manager is responsible for carrying out managerial supervision. The purposes of this are to:
• monitor, evaluate and approve performance
• clarify priorities
• share information about work
• discuss how the employee and manager feel about the work
• recognise and deal with existing and potential problems, including stress
• provide a framework for discussing and agreeing change.
Supervision sessions must take place at least monthly. The emphasis should be on creating a climate in which the staff can feel motivated. Discretion must be guaranteed for the sessions to be effective; information obtained in the sessions must not be conveyed to others without the agreement of both parties. The Westmeath Volunteer Centre Manager receives supervision from designated members of the Westmeath Volunteer Centre management committee.
In theory, supervision and support are two entirely different processes. In practice, however, the distinction between them is blurred, with support tending to form part of supervision sessions. All employees are entitled to support from their manager in areas that affect their performance at work. Support does the following:
• gives workers a safe setting in which to express themselves, let off steam and discuss their feelings about work
• helps workers to explore possibilities for work and career development
• looks at how external factors are affecting work and helps workers to consider appropriate options for further support.
These are similar to supervision, but are held less frequently, take a longer-term view, and are generally more formal, hence requiring more preparation. They are an assessment of an employee’s performance, potential and development needs. They are held near the end of the worker’s probationary period and annually thereafter. Appraisals:
• set goals and help employees to feel committed to and meet these specific work objectives
• improve communication and motivation, by giving employees an opportunity to talk about their ideas, expectations and progress
• identify training needs and plan training
• determine the suitability for employees to take on increased responsibilities
• identify strengths and weaknesses
• give managers an opportunity to affirm the employee’s work.
They are normally undertaken by the Westmeath Volunteer Centre Manager (or in the case of the Westmeath Volunteer Centre Manager by chairperson of the Westmeath Volunteer Centre Management Committee) and one other person. Notes are taken which all parties must agree. They are kept on the employee’s personal file.
6.5 Team work
Co-operation and teamwork amongst the staff team, management committee and other volunteers are encouraged. A professional attitude in which the job comes first and feelings come second is expected; professional courtesy must reign. Domination and oppressive behaviour are not tolerated and must be challenged by anyone who encounters them.
Appropriate consultation, communication and decision-making processes are in place in order to foster this team spirit.
If the preceding procedures are adhered to, conflicts should be minimised. However, there will always be times when unforeseen problems arise in the workplace, either with an individual member of staff, amongst the staff team or between the staff and other parties, for example, the management committee. It is also possible that external factors will create problems within the organisation. It is crucial that potential difficulties are dealt with as constructively and as soon as possible after they become apparent; problems rarely go away if they are simply ignored. If possible, issues should be raised informally first of all, with the people concerned. If a quick and amicable solution to the problem cannot be found, however, the appropriate formal procedures must be used.
Sometimes, no agreed solution to a problem can be found and staff will end up leaving the organisation. Staff may also leave for any number of reasons. When they do, it is just as important that the correct procedures for finishing as commencing employment at the Westmeath Volunteer Centre are followed.
7.2 Disciplinary procedure
This forms part of the contract of employment. The procedure is to be used by the management committee if they have a problem with a member of staff. Disciplinary action should only be started if informal discussions and supervision sessions with clear targets for improvement have proved ineffective, or if there is misconduct or a breach of rules which is too serious to be dealt with informally.
7.3 Grievance procedure
This forms part of the contract of employment. The procedure is to be used by members of staff if they wish to formally raise a complaint about the management committee, co-workers, working conditions, or issues relating to the termination of employment.
7.4 Redundancy procedure
If the Westmeath Volunteer Centre find itself in the difficult position of potentially having to let one or more members of staff go due to financial cutbacks or restructuring, the management committee must firstly investigate all the alternatives to redundancy. It must do this in consultation with the member(s) of staff involved and their union representative if they have one. When selecting for redundancy, all staff will be treated on the same basis, irrespective of length of service, part-time or full-time employment or any factor not related to the post they fill. Redundancies will only be made in line with the strategic plans of the organisation and across the board cuts in pay or hours will not be imposed. No staff will be made redundant in order for their post to be filled by volunteers, although specific appropriate tasks may be reallocated to volunteers.
A minimum of one month’s notice will be given. Employees are entitled to statutory redundancy pay and reasonable time off work to look for alternative employment. Employees do not qualify for redundancy if the Westmeath Volunteer Centre can offer them suitable alternative employment, if they are guilty of misconduct, or if they are ending work under a fixed term contract and have thus waived redundancy rights.
The retirement age for paid workers is 65 years. The management committee may, in exceptional circumstances and by agreement with the employee concerned, extend service beyond 65, by a maximum period of up to one year at a time.
7.6 Exit interview
Whatever the reason for members of staff leaving the Westmeath Volunteer Centre, they will be offered an exit interview in the last week of their employment. This is an excellent opportunity for the organisation to receive constructive feedback from a member of staff of what it has been like to have been an employee of the organisation. Their experience, whether positive or negative, is valuable, and will help the organisation to evaluate how it works. The interview will be undertaken by the Westmeath Volunteer Centre Manager (or the Chairperson of the Management committee if the Manager her/himself is leaving) and should cover the following areas:
• the best aspects of having worked for the Westmeath Volunteer Centre
• the worst aspects of having worked for the Westmeath Volunteer Centre
• what improvement they feel ought to be made within the organisation.
The worker and Westmeath Volunteer Centre Manager/ the Chairperson of the Management Committee should agree how much of the interview is to be kept confidential, and what information should be used to bring improvements to the organisation.
Constructive feedback on this document is always welcome. It must be given to the Westmeath Volunteer Centre Manager who will ensure that the management committee considers it.
This document will be reviewed by the management committee, in full consultation with all staff, on an annual basis, or sooner if circumstances change.