Home > Employment Law > Employing Voluntary Staff

Employing Voluntary Staff

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 22 Sep 2010 | comments*Discuss
Voluntary Staff Volunteers Rights

Charities and other not-for-profit organisations often gain significant benefits as a result of taking on voluntary staff and volunteers can be attracted to this kind of work especially as it provides them with the 'good feeling' factor of putting something back into the community.

Voluntary Staff

Volunteers offer their services to the business arena as a whole which enables employers to help build links with local communities such as colleges or universities or within their own industry in order to attract potential recruits. Volunteers themselves also have their own motivation for offering their services for free. It can enable them to gain valuable work experience in order to pursue jobs within their chosen career path and is also a useful mechanism for testing the water on both sides - to see if a company/job is right for the volunteer and vice versa. Indeed, there are some occupations where volunteering is often the most employed tactic to get a foot in the door - media jobs being a prime example.

It's also a myth to think that all volunteers are young and inexperienced school leavers. Many volunteers are older and some are even of pensionable age and come with many years worth of valuable experience.

Volunteers are often motivated and highly flexible and it is cost-efficient to employers providing the volunteer can do the job they have been asked to do. It is a good idea to give a member of staff responsibility in looking after the training and supervision of volunteers as this helps avoid friction with other members of staff and a good employer will consult volunteers to find out the level of involvement they would like and discuss what their role is going to consist of.

Before taking on volunteers, it's important to weigh up any Potential Risks against cost savings. For the most part, this is the same procedure you would have to take if you were looking for a new paid member of staff to carry out a particular role.

You should be aware of the business implications of managing volunteers such as:

  • Whether the company has a suitable vacancy
  • The space that is needed to accommodate them and will that be disruptive to other workers
  • Flexible working arrangements required by volunteers where you need to think about the needs of paid staff and if there is scope for adopting 'across the board' flexibility
  • Can you find time to give volunteers an induction to the company and task-specific training where needed
  • Can they be supervised, managed and provided with personal and professional support
  • Although volunteers work for no financial reward, they do need to feel appreciated which can be shown through supervision, recognition and involvement
  • It is also crucial to remember that volunteers are legally protected by the same health and safety legislation that is offered to other paid members of staff so you have the same Duty of Care

Contracts, Rights, Benefits and Allowances

Wherever possible, you should try not to offer a voluntary worker contractual rights. It is, however, beneficial to draw up a more informal volunteer agreement and role description in writing. Make sure the agreement is different from the contract or written terms and conditions you would use for paid staff. It is important you do not promise anything in return for the volunteer's services, although you can agree to give a volunteer relevant training.

A volunteer may still be eligible to receive certain benefits such as Disability Living Allowance or Jobseeker's Allowance although, for the latter, they must still be seeking work and eligible to work immediately, even if they are working for you as a volunteer. You can pay for their travel expenses but be careful with things like meal vouchers, for example, as if they do receive Jobseeker's Allowance, this is classed as 'payment in kind' and their benefit may be affected.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Mart
    Re: Holiday Pay & Overtime: The Changes
    I work in the security area. My rota is 4 on 4 off nights. However i usually work around 25 shifts per month.…
    17 April 2019
  • Leonardo
    Re: Violence at Work
    I was a victim on March 27, 2019 in workplace, one of my colleagues, was thrown, kicked my buckets and pour water on the ground in the presence of…
    16 April 2019
  • Branchy
    Re: Working At Night
    I work permanent 12 hour nights - 3 days per week - 36 hours per week. How is my average worked out for the no more than 8 hours in 24 over a 17…
    12 April 2019
  • Shiva
    Re: Employer Has Changed My Shifts: What Are My Rights?
    Hi I have been working for job and talent agency from 2018 October 20. Then last couple of weeks I…
    12 April 2019
  • Vicky
    Re: Safe Working Temperatures
    I work in a mill cleaning for 4 hours in a morning, there is no air con and I'm not allowed a break, is there a law that states I cant…
    11 April 2019
  • Jimmy
    Re: Working At Night
    Hi I work night is it legal to work a 12 hour shift then an hour after finishing being told to do a days training
    11 April 2019
  • Missjane
    Re: Zero Hours Contracts Explained
    My work place has closed for a refurbishment and I am a working mother 9-3 mon -Friday they r closed and have shipped us out to…
    9 April 2019
  • Nicky P
    Re: When Your Employer Changes Your Working Hours
    Hi there, I currently work at a hotel (worked there for a year) that is beside the restaurant that I have…
    9 April 2019
  • Moi
    Re: Can my Employer Fire Me?
    My manager was leaving the restaurant I work at , before he left he told all staff to stay and have a drink , which we did , a new…
    8 April 2019
  • Upset
    Re: Cancer: Your Rights as an Employee
    My Rota as been messed about with while I 've been off and now I have a really crap Rota I have complained but we're do I…
    8 April 2019