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Volunteer Activities

U.S. Office of Personnel Management

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has prepared the following guidance to support the efforts of departments and agencies to encourage employee participation in volunteer activities. Departments and agencies should also review any applicable regulations or policies and collective bargaining agreements before making determinations on these matters.

For information on scheduling time off for volunteer activities, see the Work and Time Off for Volunteer Activities page.

Awards for Volunteerism

Departments and agencies are encouraged to recognize their employees who volunteer their skills to help others. A department or agency may wish to become a Certifying Organization for the President’s Volunteer Service Award ( Certifying Organizations agree to perform the following roles:

  1. Verify that the volunteer(s) has completed the number of service hours required to earn a President’s Volunteer Service Award.
  2. Nominate verified volunteers by completing and submitting an order form to purchase the award(s).
  3. Pay the nominal cost for the award package and its shipping, either directly or through local sponsorship.
  4. Receive the award package and distribute the award to each recipient.

In addition, agencies may wish to establish internal programs to reward employees who donate their time and talents to help others. However, providing cash or paid time off undermines the volunteer spirit in which these individuals donate their personal time and efforts for the benefit of others. Nevertheless, granting appropriate citations and letters of appreciation, or small mementos such as a “You Make a Difference” pin or mug, would demonstrate the agency=s pride in the various beneficial services its employees render to the community.

Labor-Management Relations

Agency officials are reminded that conditions of employment (such as work schedules) of bargaining unit employees may not be changed without notifying the exclusive representative of those employees and, upon timely request, bargaining on the matter to the extent required and/or permitted by laws, regulations, and collective bargaining agreements. Moreover, bargaining unit employees may participate in flexible or compressed work schedules “only to the extent expressly provided under a collective bargaining agreement between the agency and the exclusive representative.” (See 5 U.S.C. 6130(a)(2).) For further information on an agency’s collective bargaining obligations, agency officials should consult with their labor relations officers. Departments and agencies should also consult OPM’s Labor-Management Relations Guidance Bulletin: Negotiating Flexible and Compressed Work Schedules (

Prohibition of Coercion

While managers, supervisors, and other agency officials may encourage employees to become more involved in volunteer activities, 5 U.S.C. 6132 provides that employees may not be coerced for the purpose of interfering with their legal rights under flexible and compressed work schedules. (Also see 5 U.S.C. 2302, Prohibited Personnel Practices.)

Conflict of Interest and Hatch Act Restrictions

Departments, agencies, and employees are reminded that conflict of interest laws and related regulations governing outside employment for compensation also apply to Federal employees who engage in volunteer activities. Hatch Act restrictions apply to employees who are on duty, as well as to those on paid or unpaid leave.

Use of Government Facilities and Equipment

Employees may not use Government facilities and equipment for other than authorized purposes. (See 5 CFR 2635.704.) Employees may consult their agency ethics officials or Office of General Counsel for information about what may be authorized by their agency or department.

Liability and Work-Related Injuries

Departments and agencies need to be aware of liability issues related to employee participation in volunteer activities. The Department of Labor advises that, in most instances, employees who perform mission-related agency sponsored/sanctioned, or skills-enhancing volunteer activities while they are on excused absence are covered by 5 U.S.C. chapter 81, Compensation for Work Injuries. Other kinds of absences would most likely not be covered.

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