Supporting local communities is an important part of Co-op's heritage. We know that for many colleagues it’s what sets us apart and makes us a different kind of employer.

Research shows that giving back to others, even in small ways, can have a positive impact on our physical and mental wellbeing.

This guide tells you about the volunteering and community activity you can do as a colleague. We want to support you in making a difference in your community.

Take small actions to make a difference

Co-op provides opportunities for you to get involved in our vision of ‘Co-operating for a fairer world’ in your day-to-day role and as a Co-op member or customer.

Here are some examples of the small actions you can take both in and outside of your role at Co-op, depending on the time you have.

As a colleague

You can:

  • spread the word about the great things Co-op does in the community, including the Local Community Fund, through our social hub
  • look for ways to bring ‘Co-operating for a fairer world’ to life in your role through discussion and decision making. Speak to your manager for ideas
  • get involved with shortlisting our Local Community Fund causes and in our celebration days
  • support the work of our National Charity Partnership with Mind, SAMH (Scottish Association of Mental Health) and Inspire
  • become a member for £1 and earn rewards for you and your community
  • talk to customers, clients and colleagues about membership and local community causes
  • talk to your colleagues, clients and customers about Food Share, where local groups can pick up unsold food from our stores to share in their community
  • find out who your local Member Pioneer is
  • talk to your colleagues about our online community centre, Co-operate and the opportunities it signposts for people to make a difference. Including volunteering, find things to do or promoting your group or activity if you organise one

As a Co-op member

You can:

In your own time

You can:


Volunteering is giving your time freely and willingly for the benefit of other people or the environment.

Unless it's part of your role, we do not expect colleagues to volunteer outside of work or take paid time off to volunteer.

But we do expect all our colleagues to contribute to our communities in small, achievable ways. For example, by doing your job to the best of your ability and being aware of your local cause and Member Pioneer.

Time spent on volunteering or community activity will not form any part of your performance rating unless it is specifically part of your role at Co-op.

Volunteering in work time

We do not give paid leave for colleagues to volunteer. Because the difference we make in the community is embedded in all Co-op roles and in our ways of working.

We’ll support time off for volunteering through unpaid leave where possible. Make sure you give at least 3 weeks’ notice.

We may also be able to give you flexibility in your role. For example, flexibility in start and finish times so that you can combine work and volunteering. Talk to your manager to decide if this is possible.

If you already volunteer in work time, check with your manager that it’s still OK.

You cannot claim through expenses for any training, equipment or protective clothing when you volunteer.

Festivals and Lend a Hand are not classed as volunteering. They are opportunities we provide for colleagues to do something different outside of their usual role in work time.

If you’re a store colleague

There are not specific hours available for colleagues in store to volunteer. So, it may be more difficult for managers to allow flexibility in your role, without it affecting the business. But there are other ways you can support your community.

Volunteering outside of work

Any colleague can take unpaid time off to volunteer but your manager needs to agree this.

You could volunteer for a Local Community Fund cause or find a local group on Co-operate, our online community centre.

On Co-operate you can:

  • explore 18,000 volunteering opportunities from local causes and groups in your area
  • read a guide about how to volunteer safely

If you decide to find an opportunity through Co-operate, you are not representing Co-op when volunteering.

If you get injured while volunteering outside of work and cannot work, follow the steps in our Absence policy.

Community activity

Community activity is:

  • activity that is expected as part of your role at Co-op
  • supports our vision of ‘Co-operating for a fairer world’. Examples could be celebrating our causes, getting involved in fundraising for our National Charity Partnership or supporting local Payout Celebrations

Team community activities

It’s beneficial for teams to take part in activities together that have a direct impact on the community.

Make sure that anything you arrange is inclusive and open to everyone. For example, think about how disabled colleagues can take part.

Consider these things before arranging a community activity with your team:

  • connect with one of the 12,000 groups listed on Co-operate, our online community centre
  • check with the group to understand what they need most help with
  • organise and agree in your local business area any resources or time needed
  • follow our Health and Safety policy for any team events on or off site
  • think about risks as part of your activity or event – read more about risk assessments
  • if your event or activity is being held on premises not owned by Co-op, work with the location and organisers to make sure risks are considered and assessed

If you need your team to learn new skills or meet a learning outcome, arranging a community activity should not be your first choice.

Visit the learning and development hub if support with a specific learning outcome is what your team needs.

If you’re a Funeralcare colleague

Community activities are part of some Funeralcare roles. This includes any activity we expect to take place at a national level or as part of our community outreach. Examples include Mother’s and Father's Day events, Remembrance Day and winter memorial services.

You may also want to host friendship and bereavement groups, coffee mornings or support activities within care homes.

If you’re a manager

We trust you to make the right decisions for your teams and business areas when arranging community activity or responding to volunteering requests from colleagues. You should balance any activity against operational needs and demands.

If one of your colleagues already has an arrangement to volunteer, you should review it using this guidance.

Public duties

We have a Public duties policy for colleagues who want to take on a public role like being a school governor or a magistrate. We’ll agree to reasonable requests for time off work for public duties. This could include attending meetings, events or other official activities involved with the role.


We know that many colleagues are passionate about fundraising for a wide range of charities and causes.

We ask that any fundraising events and activities:

  • are organised around day-to-day business and do not affect our ability to serve our colleagues, members, customers and clients

If you need ideas about how to fundraise for your activity read our Colleague Fundraising Guide.

What you must do when fundraising in work time

You must:

Member Pioneers

Our Member Pioneers bring together Co-op members, colleagues and local causes to make communities a better place to work, play, live and learn. Our Member Pioneers have a passion for community and connecting people.

You can contact a Member Pioneer Co-ordinator who will tell you who your local Member Pioneer is.

Apply to be a Member Pioneer if you have a passion for Co-op and the community.

If managers need more support

If managers need advice on colleague volunteering or community activity, contact Employee Relations(ER Services).