Should Companies Offer Paid Time Off to Volunteer?

Cleared Recruiting

Paid volunteer time off is a rising trend in employment benefit offerings. Various employers are offering their employees the ability to be paid to volunteer their time to the charitable organization of the employee’s choice. Of course, this benefit is offered differently depending on the organization’s size and finances, but the motivation is the same – altruism and not the organizational bottom line.

Tax Implications

When it comes to giving, we can give time or money. Interestingly, sometimes giving time is financially more expensive, from a tax perspective. Neither individuals nor organizations can deduct time donated to charitable organizations. Expenses made in order to donate the time (mileage, gas, etc) can be deducted; however, lost wages cannot be claimed. When an organization donates money, it is a tax write-off. Extra paid time to do volunteer work is not tax deductible and depending on the employee, it could be costly.

What is the benefit?

What is the sell for paid volunteer time? Is it worth it to organizations? The main selling point for the paid volunteer employee benefit is maintaining a competitive edge in attracting talent. While many (not all!) in the selfie generation may come across as self absorbed, there is an altruistic nature in the younger generation too. With millennials now being the largest generation in the workforce, it might be time to consider what employee benefits are important to this rising group. Lower turnover rates directly affect the company’s bottom line. Over the years, research has shown a possible correlation between organizations that tie their employees, customers, community, and environment together to have a higher financial performance. The idea is that doing good as a corporation enhances shareholder value and the financial bottom line, even if you cannot directly prove it.

Is it worth it?

Maybe. Individuals who feel led to volunteer are going to do it anyway, regardless of the company policy. And really, if you’re being paid to do something, it stops being volunteer work. Many organizations already have generous leave policies, so if the point is to make sure your employees feel fulfilled and feel supported in their quest for doing good, it could be more cost effective to create a generous leave policy.

Make sure the organization is giving volunteers accolades for their time and creating an atmosphere that celebrates volunteer work, and be liberal with accepting leave requests, especially when submitted for volunteer work. However, if employees wish to spend their leave on a cruise ship, that may be what they need that year to continue doing their best work.

If the goal is a fulfilled employee, perhaps organizations shouldn’t go down the slippery slope of defining what makes employees work better. After all, we’ve all taken the personality tests and know that in a diverse workforce, we are all going to have different needs, communication styles, and ways of using our time for the greater good. The reality is that organizations that bring employees, customers and community together can do it without paying their employees to volunteer. Paid volunteer time off is just one way to help create an altruistic culture, but it’s not the only way.

Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.