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To think volunteers prepared to work for free can be very damaging

(192 Posts)
feellikeahugefailure Wed 17-Feb-16 11:47:35

Just that really. If there are large numbers of people prepared to work for free for certain jobs it really suppresses the wages in that industry and people get used to having (armature) labour for free so wont pay for it.

Anyone else finding this?

iwantanewcar Wed 17-Feb-16 11:54:06

I totally agree. I think this idea that you are only valuable if you have volunteered (usually in a totally unrelated field) is actually very damaging. I am trying to return to work after a medium term career break and the "insignificant" voluntary work that I did because it was important doesn't seem to count. It seems to have to be named or position based voluntary work. I also do agree with you about an industry getting used to it. I feel that these supposed apprenticeships are also labour on the cheap. My local county council (large one in the south) is always advertising these for approx. £100 per week. There is never mention of any formal training. I just don't believe that they are proper apprenticeships where someone will learn a trade or profession.

sky1010 Wed 17-Feb-16 11:55:05

Of course YANBU, whether you are talking 'work placement' schemes for the unemployed in Poundland and Tesco allowing employers to get away with not actually hiring people and paying them a wage or unpaid internships for graduates.

As a graduate from very outside London, I was amazed to see that a lot of careers were not open to me because I did not have the means or the accommodation to do an expenses (travel and lunch) only or unpaid internship in the capital. It was a prerequisite for a lot of careers I was interested in.

HPsauciness Wed 17-Feb-16 12:00:33

We currently have a big issue placing students (undergraduate) in work placements, because there is a feeling amongst the staff in some organizations that they are being used to fill in positions that used to be paid (not necessarily high level or requiring huge knowledge, but positions nevertheless). It is worse in organizations which are undergoing or have recently had job cuts, for obvious reasons.

I think this is an issue. The university I work for pays its interns and won't advertise free internships, but they also employ recent graduates to work in offices and do admin which again was done previously by longer-term paid workers in those sectors, it's all about driving down budgets.

I think this is less the case in charity shops, say, but there are then issues about whether charities, not all of whom plough a huge amount back into helping people, should be VAT exempt and have large numbers of free workers- how on earth can local businesses compete with this?

I don't know the answer, but increasingly voluntary work is being used to plug gaps where the work was paid, especially in social care. Fine if you are a retired person on a decent final salary pension and enjoy helping people, less fine if your job has essentially been taken over for free by a volunteer, which has happened to several people I know in several different sectors now.

ilovesooty Wed 17-Feb-16 12:11:25

I think it depends on what and where the volunteer roles are.

bearleftmonkeyright Wed 17-Feb-16 12:16:35

Yanbu, there are so many doing this in schools and I have done it myself. Whenever I have been a classroom volunteer, and I was asked specifically to volunteer in my childs class as I am a TA, then I was treated as a member of staff and worked hard. The chair of governors has admitted in a parents meeting that because we have so many unpaid staff at our primary school it has saved money. It is so so difficult to find secure paid work as a TA.

OurBlanche Wed 17-Feb-16 12:17:53

I agree with ILS. Locally there are a few small organisations that fill lots of positions with volunteers. They offer them to people of all ages with MH issues, LDs and SNs.

They offer unpaid opportunities so as not to interfere with any benefits and other support; so as not to apply any pressure to the individual - timekeeping etc can often be a huge issue; to make the 'job' seem like a choice, a thing the individual is doing to help others - often a huge motivating factor. Some of these volunteers do go on to paid work, but not a majority.

Would you complain about that and remove the opportunities offered?

ilovesooty Wed 17-Feb-16 12:24:25

Exactly OurBlanche
My company offers volunteering roles to students who use the experience to get paid work. Also our service users move to peer mentoring and then to volunteering and often to paid work thereafter as experts by experience. For many that process helps their ongoing recovery. It isn't always an opportunity to exploit people.
Also the bereavement charity I chair uses volunteer counsellors who are assessed and trained by us who are in their final year of training and are required to take a placement by their course.

OurBlanche Wed 17-Feb-16 12:29:35

I have a fear that if the current backlash against the Tesco (and others) style 'work for benefits' continues then volunteering will become so rule bound no one will be able to set up real opportunities.

The baby will be thrown out with the bath water!

mrsmugoo Wed 17-Feb-16 12:34:58

I don't know though. I run a small, independent company in the music business. I get tens of cvs a week from people dying to work for us. We can't afford to take on a full time intern even on minimum wage as we are probably over staffed as it is so we sometimes take on interns that we pay a token amount to cover expenses to.

We invest quite a bit of our time in them for that period and give them a good slice of experience. We give them a good reference and usually put them in contact with another contact in the industry for either a perm opportunity or another internship. It's mutually beneficial and I don't really see why it would be a bad thing?

PausingFlatly Wed 17-Feb-16 12:37:15

^ have a fear that if the current backlash against the Tesco (and others) style 'work for benefits' continues then volunteering will become so rule bound no one will be able to set up real opportunities.^

Which is another reason workfare and unpaid internships were always a bad thing.

As is constantly pointed out in other contexts, it is those who abuse the system who spoil it for the rest. And it's not even a small minority doing the abusing here.

merseyparadise Wed 17-Feb-16 12:39:04

Totally agree, particularly in the museum/heritage sector, volunteers doing the work that really paid professionals should be doing. I've seen the damage some of them have done due to lack of training and supervision, but it can be done right if you have good managers in place.

PausingFlatly Wed 17-Feb-16 12:44:30

(And I speak as someone who has myself done voluntary work during ill-health, and in the heritage sector to boot! But I'm very, very careful about choosing a place where my contribution is to a not-for-profit, and additional to rather than instead of paid staff.)

MatildaTheCat Wed 17-Feb-16 12:44:40

There is a vast difference between an unpaid intern and a proper volunteer. YANBU in relation to interns unless it is very short in duration and gives the intern some decent work experience to enhance their prospects. However, volunteers across the country plug enormous gaps which simply cannot be paid for centrally.

I have one friend who gives a huge amount of her time to a major London museum which is largely kept afloat by having a huge voluntary workforce,she does not even get travel paid so it costs her a significant amount to do this. My SIL is a qualified counsellor who works for a bereavement service. She did much of her training there and is happy to continue to work for no pay. I volunteered for years at a small charity for disabled toddlers. It is rewarding and a pity that colunteers are often treated as less important than paid employees simply because they do not collect a salary.

manicinsomniac Wed 17-Feb-16 12:44:49

I don't know. I can see the downsides of it but, on balance, I think it has to be beneficial. Yes, it can be really shit for people looking for paid work but it can be brilliant for the people doing the volunteering and for the businesses and organisations they help.

Totally on the fence!

MagpieCursedTea Wed 17-Feb-16 12:53:14

I volunteer, it's only a couple of hours a week running a support group. There's no funding available to pay someone so if I didn't do it, the group wouldn't exist. I have relevant work experience and was given specific training before starting.

Oldsu Wed 17-Feb-16 12:56:15

My DH manages a charity shop he only gets just above the current min wage, he only has one other paid staff who only works 3 days a week, volunteers are the lifeblood of his shop and together they raise money for a very worthy cause. I volunteer on Saturday when I am not working

His volunteers are not in any way taking a paid job from an unemployed person, in fact the couple of JSA claimants who do volunteer with him (not mandated BTW) do so with the full cooperation of the JC, get their fares paid, get free clothes for work or interviews and the same staff discount, and free refreshment as everyone else and they get on the job training in all aspects of retail work, DH had to sign a contract which covered insurance, health and safety, working hours and also agreed that he could not sack someone or make someone redundant to take on a voluntary worker nor can he take on a volunteer to fill an existing or planned paid vacancy. The JSA claimant does not have to do the full weeks job seeking ( or whatever their claimant commitment / JS agreements mandates them to do) and of course gets time off for signing on and job interviews.

Both are very happy and have asked that when their months stint on the JC scheme finishes that they can continue to volunteer.

My DH also volunteers at a local museum on his day off, the museum which has no local or government funding would close without volunteers

PausingFlatly Wed 17-Feb-16 13:02:05

Oldsu, that sounds like a model way to proceed (although tricky to police).

It's a shame the abuse by some organisations has made all the paperwork necessary, but good that the charity and museum are finding ways to carry on with traditional volunteering.

Abbinob Wed 17-Feb-16 13:03:20

Apprenticeships are often the same sort of thing too. I saw advert for apprentice bar staff. Bar staff. The job that people tend to do because you need no experience or training or qualifications because it takes about a day to learn.

Sparklingbrook Wed 17-Feb-16 13:04:00

I volunteer for two charities. I didn't know people felt like this about it.

eleven59 Wed 17-Feb-16 13:06:30

I agree with you. There are similar arguments against charities. Any work that is valuable to society ought to be paid. There is money out there for worthy causes. Its just in the hands of too few people. Higher taxation to redistribute this wealth would be a good start.

ilovesooty Wed 17-Feb-16 13:06:35

Our volunteer counsellors are sometimes qualified and keen to volunteer to get hours towards their accreditation. They get supervision, free CPD and travel expenses paid.

Abbinob Wed 17-Feb-16 13:06:47

However, both my brothers were unemployed for 2 years in their early 20s, did a 6 week work placement through a local charity that helps unemployed people (one at the council, the other at some office place) and both have pretty good jobs now that they got a month or so after finishing the voluntary placements so it can work.

stressedcoversupervisor Wed 17-Feb-16 13:06:56

I think it depends on the situation and context. My DP volunteers for a mental health peer support group. There was no support in our area for adults with that particular issue, plenty of support for children and young people but nothing for adults. So his friend set up the group and then everything is run by volunteers. I think in that situation it's a good thing. But places like £land and Tesco etc really take advantage and it makes it so much harder for those actually looking for work.

PausingFlatly Wed 17-Feb-16 13:08:04

Sparkling, there's a real difference between voluntary work providing services that were never going to paid for by govt or commercially - eg Cats Protection League.

And "voluntary work" providing additional labour for Tescos, or being used to cover services government is mandated to provide (TAs, social care for the disabled).

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