What is Volunteer Time Off (VTO) and How to Use it?

By hrlineup | 25.05.2022

Including leave policies in workers’ compensation is one of the strategies to retain and attract top talent. One of the elements included in the leave package is volunteer time off (VTO), which has become an effective way for companies to encourage their employees to reach out to others in society. Note that VTO has many benefits not only for employees but businesses. 

For instance, incorporating a volunteer time off policy in offices has boosted employee participation in charity. Additionally, companies applying this leave policy have become more reputable since their employees have turned out to be their brand ambassadors. So, what is volunteer time off meaning, and how does volunteer time off work? Below, we help you understand VTO and how to initiate it into your business.

What is Volunteer Time Off (VTO)?

VTO is a form of leave where employees get paid to go and volunteer in specific charity/community-based functions. Employers realized that volunteering programs improve employee engagement and corporate social responsibility. Therefore, many employers are nowadays incorporating it into their leave policies. Note that there are two types of volunteering, including corporate and employer-based. 

In corporate volunteering, employees work together on a common project. In contrast, in employer-based volunteering, a company teams up with a non-profit agency to be a bridge enabling employee volunteerism. However, most organizations apply paid time off and ignore volunteer time off. What then is the difference between the two policies? Keep reading to understand the difference.


Paid time off (PTO) is a paid leave where the employee’s activity is not restricted. They can spend this time however they like, whether volunteering in the community or spending it with their families. Contrastingly, a volunteer time off policy requires employees to strictly participate in charitable or community events. With a VTO, employees must provide proof or documentation indicating how and where the time was spent. Some volunteer time off examples include IHS Markit and the Community of San Mateo. For companies that offer VTO services, Google, Thomson Routers, CenterPoint Energy, and Silicon Valley Clean Energy, are good examples.

Benefits of Volunteer Time Off

Most employees are happy working for businesses that promote social activities, whether community cleaning or food distribution. Apart from giving peace, VTO help in marketing a company’s brand. Other volunteer time off benefits are as follows.

  • Improves Recruitment

Companies that implement VTO attract better candidates and the attention of good investors who wants to partner with them. Social activism is a good gesture and promotes human rights. The volunteer time off policy will attract community-minded and value-driven employees without you investing so much into the hiring process. However, you must conduct the usual hiring process, including screening and interviews, to ensure you hire a skillful workforce that fits your business culture. 

  • Employee Retention

Nobody wants to work in an inhumane environment where there is no value for human rights. An employer with VTO policies provides candidates with a good experience since they feel comfortable with their job, empowered, and engaged as a team. By understanding your personality, they will remain loyal and easy to communicate with, thus increasing retention rates.

  • Increase Engagement and Learning

During VTO leave, employees acquire new skills and ideas that can benefit both employees and the whole organization. Moreover, employees feel proud of their company for paying them to do charity. This policy promotes employee engagement resulting in high business productivity.

  • Support Employee Values

Some employees enjoy giving back to the community and have made it part of their value systems. An employer who offers VTO to their workers grants them their heart desire, plus a payment bonus, making them the best company’s ambassadors. Such employees experience less stress and feel comfortable about themselves. Therefore, there will be high employee retention and improvement in their performance.

How To Use Volunteer Time Off Policy

Creating and implementing a working VTO is an easy task. You have to consider if your employees’ values match the company’s culture of volunteering. Additionally, you have to analyze the impact of the volunteering program on your company, both externally and internally. Here’s how to use volunteer time off policy.

1. Formulate Time that Fits Your Company

Some employees abuse the VTO policies by going out any time they like. Therefore, you should formalize the time tracking process just like in PTO. Ensure the time you settle on will not hinder or disrupt your business productivity. If there must be a time increment or allowance, ensure all the employees are aware to avoid cases of burnout and stress.

2. Involve Entire Personnel 

All ranks should be involved when creating a company policy so that they all agree to abide by it. You have to ensure managers have the schedule for the VTO activities. This process will help them in covering shifts and assigning work. As a result, you will have an orderly workforce working towards achieving its goals. 

3. Select a Deserving Non-Profit Organization

Many non-profit organizations would like to have volunteers. Carefully select organizations that qualify your standards to send volunteers. Moreover, allow the volunteer employees to choose a tax-exempt nonprofit organization by themselves. However, you are free to support local schools and communities depending on your company rules.

4. Describe The Volunteer Work

What exactly do your employee volunteers do? Note that people are different and, therefore, communicate about the types of services your volunteers will offer to the community. Prevent conflict of interest when employees go to volunteer by specifying their roles.

5. Create The Policy 

Make a comprehensive policy that spells out all the requirements like;

  • Who should participate, and are all employees allowed to volunteer?
  • How many days are given to the employees?
  • How can employees make a VTO request?
  • Are employees on discipline eligible?
  • Is there any authority/rule governing the policy?


Giving back to the community is a kind gesture that every employer should embrace. Volunteer time off is an opportunity for both employer and employees’ development. For instance, reaching out to poor people helps develop empathy and other life skills. Among other benefits, VTO has enhanced the mental well-being of both the volunteer and recipients. However, the process can derail your company’s progress if not well initiated. That is why it is crucial for employers to plan on using VTO policies and only allow employees interested in volunteer work to do so. Simply put, employees should focus on their passion for serving humanity and not the incentives.