Volunteering for Charity, Legally
Charities are often required to rely on the kindness of volunteers in order to carry out the work they are doing, however, as a charity this can often be a source of some confusion about how to treat a volunteer in terms of “legal employment”. As a volunteer giving up your precious time in order to contribute, you may also want to know where your legal boundaries lie. The following is an overview of some of the most frequently asked questions regarding charity and differentiating between the rights of employees and the rights of volunteers.
Does a charity need a formal contract with a volunteer?
The answer to this is no, so long as you are strictly a volunteer, giving of your time freely for your chosen cause. However, if you are an employee of a charity, a formal document is needed, much like any other job.
Regarding volunteer work, a charity must realize that there is no obligation on behalf of volunteers, nor can they place any obligation on them.
The furthest a charity is able to go in terms of drawing up an agreement with volunteers is to communicate hopes and expectations rather than any kind of key requirements. Simply put, volunteers are not employees and the work to do is up to their own discretion.
How should a charity tackle a volunteer in terms of disciplinary problems?
Again, a volunteer is not an employee and disciplinary issues should be approached with the word “voluntary” in mind. In other words, these are not employees and this means that a charity’s procedures should be tailored accordingly. Legally, a charity can not create obligation for a volunteer to attend work and should rather come up with alternative arrangements and schedules for volunteers who are repeated “no-shows”. Terms such as “disciplinary action” should be avoided.
Should a charity pay a volunteer?
Absolutely not, because the moment a charity remunerates a volunteer, the work is no longer voluntary and volunteers suddenly become “employees”, along with any legal implications this brings with it.
Should a charity at least pay expenses?
Reimbursing volunteers for expenses is fine, so long as they are only replacing money that the volunteer has actually spent out of their own pocket, as a direct result of the volunteer work.
If volunteers aren’t seen as employees, then does a charity need to make provision in terms of insurance?
The answer to this is yes, most definitely. It is quite important that a charity notifies insurers that volunteers are working at the charity. This is just to ensure that the charity is covered in the event that a volunteer is injured whilst working, and to protect the charity against claims that may come about if a volunteer behaves negligently whilst working for the charity.
So hopefully that clarified a few of the ins and outs in terms of volunteering for charitiesin the legal sense. The best approach to have as a charity and volunteer is mutual respect and to never lose sight of why you are both there in the first place- to work towards a bigger cause!