Don't force private sector to give days off for volunteering

Volunteering encompasses a person actively taking on a task, responsibility or project of his own accord without needing to be assigned, ordered or told to do so.

If civil servants are given a day off annually to volunteer, then the altruistic value of volunteering is diminished ("Civil servants get 1 day off to volunteer at charities"; Oct 16).

I agree with Mr Victor Tay, the vice-chairman of United Nations Global Compact, that it is difficult for small private firms to follow suit. In any case, many businesses are already highly engaged with their local communities and through events such as charity golf tournaments and runs.

Businesses should support their staff if they want to volunteer but firms must not be pressured into granting the additional day of leave, as that will add to their costs.

It would also be a financial burden for smaller firms and a logistical headache to find replacements for those taking time off to do charity work.

Employers would also have to decide when to give their employees the day off and will have to deal with possible abuses of it.

In the end, the success or failure of this initiative will depend on the degree of planning the employers undertake and the trust they have in their staff.

Volunteering means people independently and freely choosing to give up their time to help others.

Therefore, before we encourage private firms to grant days off for workers to volunteer, a balance must be struck between the true spirit of volunteerism and "leisure" volunteering.

With having to allow for the many miscellaneous leave days, on top of workers' annual leave, employers will be hard-pressed to find replacement staff in this tight labour market and may end up risking their businesses' productivity.

Francis Cheng