Volunteering on company time

More than 1.7 million employed Canadians volunteered with support of employers: Statistics Canada

About one quarter of all the time devoted to volunteer work in Canada in 2000 was done with the support of employers, according to Statistics Canada.

The study showed that volunteers who are employed are more likely to devote more time to their efforts if they receive support from their employers.

In 2000, about 6.5 million people, or 27 per cent of the population aged 15 and older, gave their time in one form or another. This represented a decline of about one million people from the 7.5 million, or 31 per cent, who volunteered in 1997.

Although fewer people are volunteering, the intensity of those doing so increased. On average, each volunteer in 2000 contributed 162 hours during the year, up from 149 hours in 1997.

Employers stepping up support

While the overall number of volunteers declined during this period, the proportion with the support of employers went up.

In 2000, more than 1.7 million employed volunteers — or about 48 per cent of all employed volunteers — received support from their employer in some form, up from 44 per cent in 1997.

These volunteers gave an average of 148 hours during the year, about 20 hours more than their counterparts who got no employer support. This translated into more than 225 million hours of volunteer work that had at least one form of employee support, roughly one-quarter of total hours.

How employers are supporting staff who volunteer

In the smallest workplaces, those with fewer than 20 employees, employer support usually consisted of time off and changing work hours.

Smaller workplaces were more likely to provide support for staff wishing to volunteer. About 60 per cent of employer-supported volunteers in small workplaces reported approval for time off, compared with 53 per cent in workplaces with more than 500 employees.

Similarly, 59 per cent of employer-supported volunteers in small workplaces reported approval to change work hours, compared with 52 per cent in the largest.

The study concluded that the benefits of employer support to workers, and ultimately the employer, are evident. Ancillary job benefits were reported more by employer-supported volunteers than by their counterparts who received no support.

In addition, the study said employers may be influenced to support efforts by volunteers in their workforce to promote a positive public image and retain staff.

The Statistics Canada article, Volunteering on Company Time, uses data from the National Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating conducted in 1997 and 2000. The article analyzes the contribution of employers in supporting volunteer efforts. It examines the types of employer support, benefits of supporting volunteering and reasons employees do not volunteer.

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