Dubai’s new volunteering law – the basics and what it means for you

Volunteering in the UAE has become more common, but it’s not clear what impact the law will have on volunteer numbers (image: Time Out Abu Dhabi)

Last month Dubai introduced for the first time legislation covering volunteering in the Emirate. The new law, which was passed a week ago, will impact both the public and organizations who want to donate their time and skills for free to local charities.

I’ll share information on the new law below from Gulf News, as well as analysis on the law at the bottom. As the law is now in effect, if you want the most up to date advice you will need to reach out to Dubai’s Community Development Authority (CDA) which is charged with its implementation.

Competencies 

The law grants the CDA a number of specialisations and jurisdictions regarding voluntary work, which include drawing up plans and public policies for voluntary work in Dubai and supervising their implementation, as well as encouraging public and private bodies and enterprises to launch voluntary work initiatives in Dubai.

The authority will also be responsible for approving the template for voluntary work agreements in coordination with bodies accepting volunteers, in addition to setting up a database to register volunteers in the emirate. (my emphasis here)

Analysis – All volunteering must be part of a wider agreement, and all volunteers must be logged into a database by the CDA.

Specialised volunteer work 

The law specifies that certain qualifications, expertise and conditions are required when it comes to specialised volunteer work, and specialised volunteers will need to have a license and the necessary permits from relevant bodies.

The CDA will issue licenses for specialised volunteer work when it ascertains that all conditions listed in this law have been met.

Analysis: If you’re a specialist (say a lawyer, or an accountant) then you’ll need to get permissions from the CDA (and other bodies) before volunteering. It’s not clear what other bodies the law is referring to here.

Volunteering teams 

Volunteers can set up teams, according to the law, on the condition that the team is registered in the official CDA database, and the nature of these teams, as well as terms and conditions that they should meet, will be set through a resolution issued by CDA’s Director-General.

Volunteers or volunteer teams are not allowed to collect donations or announce that donation will be collected until they have notified the CDA and have received the approval of concerned bodies.

As per the law, specific hours can be allocated during the official working hours of public and private employees in Dubai to participate in various volunteering activities, as long as it does not infringe on their vocational rights. The employers of the volunteering employees will have to coordinate with the bodies who are accepting the voluntary work prior to nominating any of its employees for carrying out institutional voluntary work. The public and private bodies will bear the responsibility for any consequences resulting from the voluntary work of the volunteers.

Analysis: If you’re a corporate or public sector body and you have a team donating their time, the full details will need to be logged by the CDA. No donation-collecting will be allowed (that’s already in practice at the moment). Plus, it looks as if the CDA is requesting corporates for employee volunteering to only happen during office hours. Any work done will be the responsibility of the organization which the volunteer employees work for.

Obligations of bodies accepting volunteers 

The law obliges government and private entities, including civil establishments licensed to work in Dubai, to set their voluntary standards and regulations and provide the Community Development Authority with these standards and controls, as well as to identify categories of volunteers and the nature of the work that each category can perform provided that the volunteer work shall be compatible with the volunteer’s qualifications and intellectual and physical abilities. 

The entities shall be obliged with training volunteers to carry out the tasks entrusted to them and helping them to highlight and foster their talents and ensure that their abilities are used properly.

The entities obligations include recording the volunteers’ data, the nature of voluntary work entrusted to them and the number of hours they volunteered in the database approved by the Community Development Authority, providing volunteers with necessary equipment, tools and information, and with insurance against injuries, infections and civil liability for harming others. 

Entities accepting volunteers shall be thereby responsible for all voluntary work expenses, including that of for the treatment of volunteers of any damage sustained while performing volunteer work, provided that such damage is caused due to the fault of the bodies in which they are volunteering with.

The entities obligations also include ensuring the safety of volunteers and beneficiaries of voluntary work against any damage that they may suffer from in the course of doing voluntary work, developing a preventive and safety system in coordination with the competent authorities, not to assign volunteer with more than (420) voluntary hours within one year, overseeing volunteers to verify that they are doing voluntary work as required, awarding the volunteers appreciation certificates once they complete the voluntary work perfectly.

Analysis: This seems to set out the need for all those entities involved in volunteering to have minimum written standards on the type of volunteering they’re offering/engaged in, who volunteers and whether the two are suited to each other. All volunteering needs to be logged and that information provided to the CDA. Charities will be liable for ensuring that volunteers are treated well (would this require insurance, I wonder?).

Voluntary work agreement

According to the law, the bodies accepting volunteers may seek help from volunteers as per the voluntary work agreement prepared by the CDA. The agreement shall contain all details regulating the relationship between the volunteer and the body they are volunteering in.

The law stipulates that the volunteers must not be less than 18 years old, otherwise, they need to get the approval of their guardians. Volunteers must be of good conduct and physically capable of undertaking voluntary work.

Analysis: The CDA will begin issuing voluntary work agreements to codify and professionalize volunteering. Volunteers will need to have clean records in order to be able to volunteer.

Rights and duties of volunteers 

The law stipulates that volunteers must abide by the voluntary work agreement and complete the voluntary work perfectly within the pre-determined time. Volunteers must respect the principles, goals and regulations of voluntary work set by bodies accepting volunteers. They also must respect the confidential information that they come across while carrying out voluntary work.

Volunteers must commit to the limits of the voluntary work, its goal and not to delve into the affairs of the bodies they are volunteering in. They must maintain the equipment and devices that they are given for voluntary work and to give it back to the bodies once the voluntary work is done.

Analysis: I’m not sure if any is needed here!

In conclusion, the law seeks to codify, measure and professionalize volunteering. However, there’s lots of questions still to be asked. How complex will volunteering become, and what other legislation or activities will the Government of Dubai undertake to promote volunteering. As the law has now been published, it’s already in effect. Charities, individuals and organizations involved in volunteering will have six months to ensure their full compliance.

You can download the full law here (in Arabic) – Dubai volunteering law

Step up, support the Comms industry. Volunteer for the IABC EMENA Board!

Volunteer

I’ll be the first to admit it. It’s a well-known secret in the communications industry that we’re awful at PRing what we do. The public relations sector doesn’t engage enough with the outside world in terms of what we do and why we’re of real value to any organization.

For me it was exciting to see the turnout at the annual regional Eurocomm event in London recently. The number of professionals who cared enough to travel to London for several days, and engage in learning and debate about the industry, was inspiring. There’s a lot of good will and positive sentiment around the communications sector at the moment, which I hope will long continue.

But, I’m never satisfied. I’d like for us to build on that engagement, and ask you, the communications professionals who I engage with here online, or through social media, to put themselves forward to volunteer to support the industry’s growth and act as leaders and mentors to those who want to learn about and join the sector.

As a not-for-profit organization that aims to promote public relations both globally and throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, IABC works through volunteers. The Europe, Middle East and North Africa board supports activities across the most diverse, and most exciting region for communicators. Under the board, IABC has a host of country chapters that help with everything from organizing our large events (think Eurocomm which was held in London in March), to smaller activities such as media evenings, webinars and training. Volunteers can also help in research work and soliciting ideas and thoughts from our wider family of members.

If you want to give back and help, why don’t you step up and volunteer on the EMENA board? Volunteering is one of the most rewarding activities that I’ve engaged in, and I’m sure you’d enjoy working with a group of people who could not be more passionate about what we do and why we do it.

Please do drop me a line in the comments or send me a message through social media and we can take the conversation from there. You can find more details here on the IABC website. Nominations are open until Wednesday the 17th May.

So, what do you say? Are you up for it?

This Eid, are our words enough or should we do more?

I love Eid, the name given to the two major Muslim festivals. Eid one of those times that reminds me of Christmas or Easter. It’s a time for family, for giving and for being with those that you love. But this year, I’ve not been feeling the same festive spirit. Maybe it’s due to the three-year-long conflict in Syria, which has claimed over 170,000 lives? Maybe it’s the news coming out of Iraq, where one of the world’s oldest civilizations, is on the bring of being torn apart by religious fanatics and sectarianism. Then there’s Libya, where the population has found itself at the mercy of the numerous militias who remained armed and in control after the fall of Gaddafi. And finally, there’s Gaza.

During Eid, it’s customary to wish others a wonderful year ahead; we say to one another, “may every year find you in good health.” This year, I feel the need to do more. In this region, we often feel the need to blame others for our troubles. However, we have to start rolling our sleeves up ourselves, and doing what we need to do to make our region better, for everyone in it.

We have to work towards opening ourselves up and not just tolerating but accepting and embracing those who are different. We should help to educate others, to pass on to them the skills that they will need to find a job and build a career. We need to raise our voices, and tell our governments to work together for the interests of the entire region rather than a select few.

There’s many things that need to be done, and the best people to act are us. For too long we’ve relied on others to help, be it governments at home or abroad. This Eid, I am going to act and volunteer more for the causes that I believe in. I will raise my voice as often and as loud as I can do for those that have been silenced. And, I will donate to charities and organizations that are on the ground and that I know are making a difference.

I hope that these actions, though not much, will make some difference to others. This Eid, what are you doing? Do you feel the same, and, if so, will you join me and turn your words into actions? Let me know.

Make a New Year’s Resolution for your company and go volunteer in 2014

Volunteering will benefit you, your employees and your business more than you may imagine (image source - www.zmetravel.com)

Volunteering will benefit you, your employees and your business more than you may imagine (image source – http://www.zmetravel.com)

You’re finished with the festive period, the time of year when we have a tendency to overindulge. Now, having seen in the new year, most of us will have made a number of resolutions for our own betterment. But if you’re thinking of a way to make a difference in 2014, why not take a step forward and make a resolution for your company and community?

The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is gaining a foothold among businesses across the region and one method that all businesses, both large and small, can adopt is to volunteer their time to support local charitable organisations.

There’s a misconception among business owners that volunteering or other forms of CSR is the preserve of large corporations. Nothing could be further from the truth. Giving back by donating your time and expertise to your community can be beneficial to you, your staff and business for many reasons. Not only can volunteering help your community and create a shared sense of achievement among your employees, but giving back can even help your business grow in way that you may not expect. Here’s how:

Volunteering can broaden your experience

Volunteering provides an opportunity to work on something different, with new people in a new place for a new cause. The experiences are not only personally rewarding, but you may and your staff will develop new skills and thinking from the not-for-profit sector that may benefit your own business. When you volunteer for the right reasons to give back to the community, you’ll not only develop new perspectives but you’ll also become more of an empathetic, well-rounded leader and be able to bring these skills and experiences back to bear on your own goals and those of your business.

Your employee morale will improve

Giving to the community has significant benefits for employee satisfaction. Studies by London in 2010 found that 94 per cent of companies had found that volunteering positively impacted employee morale. Volunteering allows your staff to give back to their communities, learn new skills and participate in causes that many of them may passionately believe in, such as the environment, good health and childcare. Volunteering has been found to boost employee health as well as their morale.

Doing well is good for your business reputation too

As a business owner, no one will know better than you that your actions impact your business reputation. Giving back to the local community will have positive effect on your brand. The more that you become part of your local community, the faster your reputation as a business that cares will grow. Volunteering helps your company show that you are empathetic and that you do understand the needs and concerns of local communities.

Develop new relationships and strengthen existing ones

There’s no better way to develop and maintain good relationships than working together with others for a good cause. Getting out there and volunteering will enable you to meet new people who you may not otherwise meet. Even if these relationships don’t initially seem relevant to you and your business, the power of networking will mean that you’ll have a group of individuals outside of your usual business circles to consult with and give you different perspectives.

If you haven’t ever volunteered before and don’t know where to start, there are a number of organisations and bodies that can advise you. For companies based in Dubai, the best place to start is the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and its Engage team that already has a strong connection with most of Dubai’s charitable organisations. The Engage team may be able to point you and your business in the right direction as to how and where to start. The Dubai Chamber of Commerce and the Engage team can be reached at responsiblebusiness@dubaichamber.com.

For companies in Abu Dhabi, the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Group is a governmental organisation that promotes sustainability best practises and would be best placed to provide similar advice as to where to start in the UAE’s capital. You can contact them at contact@adsg.ae.

For business owners in Saudi Arabia, your best resource may be the Ministry of Social Affairs, which has a database of all locally registered charities in the kingdom. The ministry has offices in most of the kingdom’s cities, so do check out its website at http://www.mosa.gov.sa.

Volunteering doesn’t have to take a tremendous amount of time or energy and yet giving back can be one of the most rewarding things you do over 2014 for yourself and your employees. Get started today and make a difference not only to yourself, but to your local community as well.

This piece was first published on the Kipp Report.