Volunteers and Employment Law for Charities

Volunteers and Employment Law for Charities

“Generally, volunteering is described as an unpaid activity where someone gives their time to help an organisation or an individual who they are not related to” – Volunteering England

It makes sense for charities to engage volunteers to work for them. However, the legal status of volunteers when it comes to employment law can be complex and you need to be mindful that you do not end up in front of an Employment Tribunal.

You will want your volunteers to have some boundaries and guidance but you want to avoid laying down too many rules for them to follow because otherwise a volunteer could claim that they are no longer a volunteer but a worker and therefore have a contract of employment with you. If that happens then the full remit of employment law comes into force and you will be obliged to give them all the same contractual arrangements that you give your employees including pay and holiday etc.

The good news is that it is possible to create an arrangement with your volunteers without creating a contract of employment.

If you don’t want the arrangement to look like a contract, don’t call it a contract! Have a Code of Practice instead.

  • State that the arrangement isn’t legally binding and isn’t intended to be an employment relationship either now or in the future.
  • Whilst you will want volunteers to comply with your rules and regulations if a particular policy isn’t relevant to a volunteer don’t apply it to them.
  • Make sure that volunteers only receive payment for actual out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Make sure that perks like training are discretionary and not guaranteed.
  • Reduce obligations on the part of the volunteer regarding the amount of time they have to commit to you.
  • Make sure your volunteers are treated fairly in line with your equal opportunities policies, health & safety policies and make sure they have insurance cover.

If you need help drawing up a Volunteer Code of Practice please contact Shine Charity Recruitment / the HR Dept.


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