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Volunteering over xmas?

Published 07 Dec 2020

A lot of non-profit organisations, from your neighbourhood charity to National forums, rely on the continuous influx of volunteers. Due to limited or no available funds, some organisations have to rely on the good faith of their community and/or citizens to help reach their operational goals. These organisations established the volunteer relationship over time, however, the scope and engagement of volunteer work from other industries has grown immensely in recent years and with that the risks involved for the organisations utilising volunteers also.

Volunteers must not expect payment nor receive payment in any form, is the fundamental rule. Though volunteers can receive the following for volunteering (payment in kind);

  • reimbursement for the expenses they incurred when performing the volunteer work
  • a koha or honoraria
  • any personal satisfaction a volunteer may get from the work.

Most organisations using volunteers also have employees, it must be clearly noted that a volunteer is not an employee. Employment Law, Employment Relations Act and associated Acts (with the exception the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Human Rights Act) do not apply to volunteers.

It is recommended that a written volunteer’s agreement is put in place to protect both parties and avoid confusion.
Volunteering can also take the form of unpaid internships, work trials or providing work experience in some industries. If an employer is thinking of having somebody do an unpaid work trial or internship, or work experience, they should:

  • make absolutely clear that the position is a volunteer position and that the person does not expect payment or other reward. This should be done in writing.
  • make sure that the volunteer does not receive any payment.
  • avoid getting an economic benefit from the work done by the volunteer.
  • avoid having the volunteer do work which is integral to the business, such as work that an employee would ordinarily do.
  • limit the duration of work and the hours worked by the volunteer. The longer a person volunteers and the more hours they work, the more likely they are to be an employee.

Volunteers/ internships which fail to abide by the above may be deemed an employment relationship and should rather be confirmed by way of fixed term/casual or part time employment contracts.

The Volunteers ebook is available for purchasing by non-members here, or members will find it in the Dashboard Library of the Employers Toolbox Online.