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Your Employment Rights as a Volunteer

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 30 Apr 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Volunteer Employment Rights Volunteer

Because volunteer workers do not have a contract of employment as such they do not have the same kind of employment rights as an ordinary employee would be entitled to. This does not, however, mean that you could be exploited and in certain areas, you would still be protected.

Instead of an employment contract, you would normally be given some form of volunteer policy similar to a job description, which is usually called a ‘volunteer agreement’. In terms of legislation, and things you should know, however, the information below is important to anybody who is intending to become a volunteer.

Health & Safety

As almost every charitable organisation or other company or institution is going to have at least one employee on staff, it is therefore subject to government health and safety legislation and, as such, you as a volunteer can expect the same level of commitment to your own health and safety as would any staff employee. Your own role too would be covered by risk assessment and action that might be needed to be carried out as a result of that must be taken in line with the legislation in place.

Expenses, Pay & Training

As you are undertaking a ‘voluntary’ job, you are excluded from the National Minimum Wage regulations. Any expenses that are agreed are not considered a substitute for a ‘wage’ as such. They are simply to repay you for any costs such as travel, meals and, in some cases, accommodation that you have met yourself, i.e. expenses which you wouldn’t have incurred had you not been volunteering.

You might also be offered training. The important things to remember here are that you are not automatically entitled to receive expenses and training and, although most organisations will pay for expenses and some will also offer training, you need to ensure that you have checked this out first and that it forms part of your voluntary agreement or you could well end up being out of pocket for your efforts. It’s also important that you don’t unwittingly accept more money in expenses than it costs to cover the actual expenditure you’ve made as a result of being on duty. This is especially relevant if you are receiving state benefits as it can affect those.

Minimum Age

Many voluntary organisations will offer volunteer work to children although the law limits what children under 16 years old can participate in. For example, if you are under 14, you are not allowed to offer your services, whether paid or unpaid, to a profit-making organisation.

Your Voluntary Agreement

In addition to some of the points covered above, your voluntary agreement should state what level of supervision and support you’ll get, how any disputes will be resolved and details of the organisation’s insurance cover and equal opportunities policy.

Data Protection

As a volunteer, you have exactly the same rights as a member of staff when it comes to data protection legislation.

Other Issues

Overseas volunteers outside the EEA (European Economic Area) do not have any special dispensation to come to the UK to become a voluntary worker. The Government do operate certain concessions but it’s important to find this out before you simply come to the UK to take up a voluntary position because you will be contravening UK immigration laws if you do not have the correct paperwork. As with any employment issues, if, as a volunteer, you do have an issue with the work you are doing, you can seek advice from ACAS.

So, be sure that you know your rights and that you have obtained a volunteer agreement which you are happy with before you start working as a volunteer.

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Hi all, first time I've ever volunteered for anything as I've always worked many hours. But due heart attack was forced to retire early. I soon got bored and found the perfect solution, apply to be a community first responder for the ambulance service, I applied, got accepted, completed training, got allocated to a nearby group and very shortly found the group to be (clicky) so to say, funds were low, I was keen to start responding in my rural area, got involved with events to raise money for kit and defibrillator but this was taking time, asked if I could buy my own kit to help the progress. Certainly, great. First month 140 hours volunteering loved it. Got one person back to life with training, all the time tho in pain and fatigue due to a problem that was under investigation, due to fatigue and Meds I was losing concentration, got caught speeding on camera 3 time just over the limit and was suspended from responding in my car, I handed my kit in including my defibrillator I paid for and said it may as well get used whilst I appeal on convictions, but soon after my condition got worse and started suffering angina attacks, I am awaiting heart treatment to clear further blockages but at high risk of another heart attack, I've asked my scheme and Team for my defibrillator to be returned as I may need it or the wife need to use it on me and after being ignored by our team leader on the issue posted a comment on our members only site and had nothing but abuse from quess what. The Click, I've heard the opinion on other team mates as there are 22, the click is around 4. And anonymously the team totally disagree with the click. As I could die at anytime with a cardiac arrest and not got the vital piece of kit that I own, I'm taking to the top as I have made the group quite a bit of money for buying kits etc, I ask my parish council were I've lived all my life to help funding and they have just donated £500 to our scheme. I've done nothing wrong towards the group, what is the problem with some people, what should I do next ? I'm considering a solicitors letter, as the driving issue that's still ongoing appeal but I'm not driving now due to my health conditions, it's a shame a small group of people can manipulate a group of volunteers to a fantastic cause, some advice soon would be very much appreciated, thank you for your time reading this. I hope it's not to long..
On one - 30-Apr-17 @ 2:10 AM
I volunteered for an organisation about two years ago, I loved doing this and gained some good skills and knowledge from the experience which was fab. Due to my home life commitments I had to give up my time with the organisation. I have recently given this organisation as a reference source to potential employers, I had worked hard for them and thought I had made a big contribution to the charity and the people I had advocatedfor in the community. It seems the organisation is unwilling to give me a reference and they won't tell me why this is the case. Is there anyway I canofficially request a reason for them not giving me a reference ?
LJ - 2-Mar-17 @ 9:44 AM
I work as a voluenteer, my manager requests I work between 8:30-3:30pm is this fair? There has been occasions where I have been a few minutes late through no fault of my own and pulled for it by my manager, what are my rights here?
Danny - 15-Jan-17 @ 5:21 PM
Jack - Your Question:
I worked voluntarily at Ashgate Hospice in Derbyshire basically serving meal to patients and pot washing. I had and passed all the CRB checks.One day I was called into the office and asked if I had ever been accused of rape. Obviously l repliéd no and asked why such questions had been asked.I was told that a female voluntary worker had made such allegations. I was asked if I wanted the matter investigating to which I replied yes. I was told not to contact any other members of staff and the escorted from the building. The person making these ridiculess allegations was then given a permanent paid position (not suspended pending the investigation as I believe I was).A few days later I was informed that the complainant alleged that I had touched her. When I asked where I was told in the middle of her back. Something which I didn't recall but accept that I may have done but couldn't see what harm this had caused.Some time later at my request I attended the HR department at Ashgate Hospice where I learned of the complainants permanent employed position. No evidence of rape, touching or other allegations were offered. However I suggested that I may have touched other members of staff but not in an offensive way, that I had never been accused of rape. In response that I had talked about sex l explained that a discussion took place abou allegations made about several celebrities, a topical issue at the time.I conclusion my employment was terminated in writing and I quote for:- 1) Inapropriate touching but not in a sexual manner. 2) Talking about sex. 3) Comments made to the HR officer (something which has not been divulged to me).After seeking legal advice I wrote to the Trustee of the Hospice by registered post. After over a year they have not even acknowledged my communications.I am aggrieved that my character and fifty years of public service can be destroyed by doing voluntary charity work and that such a respected organisation acted in such an unprofessional manner.This should be a warning to all voluntary worker. You have NO legal protection beware.

Our Response:
What does your legal representative say about this. From what you've said it does sound very unfair treatment.
VoluntaryWorker - 27-Oct-16 @ 2:38 PM
I worked voluntarily at Ashgate Hospice in Derbyshire basically serving meal to patients and pot washing. I had and passed all the CRB checks. One day I was called into the office and asked if I had ever been accused of rape. Obviously l repliéd no and asked why such questions had been asked. I was told that a female voluntary worker had made such allegations. I was asked if I wanted the matter investigating to which I replied yes. I was told not to contact any other members of staff and the escorted from the building. The person making these ridiculess allegations was then given a permanent paid position (not suspended pending the investigation as I believe I was). A few days later I was informed that the complainant alleged that I had touched her. When I asked where I was told in the middle of her back. Something which I didn't recall but accept that I may have done but couldn't see what harm this had caused. Some time later at my request I attended the HR department at Ashgate Hospice where I learned of the complainants permanent employed position. No evidence of rape, touching or other allegations were offered. However I suggested that I may have touched other members of staff but not in an offensive way, that I had never been accused of rape. In response that I had talked about sex l explained that a discussion took place abou allegations made about several celebrities, a topical issue at the time. I conclusion my employment was terminated in writing and I quote for:- 1)Inapropriate touching but not in a sexual manner. 2) Talking about sex.3) Comments made to the HR officer (something which has not been divulged to me). After seeking legal advice I wrote to the Trustee of the Hospice by registered post. After over a year they have not even acknowledged my communications. I am aggrieved that my character and fifty years of public service can be destroyed by doing voluntary charity work and that such a respected organisation acted in such an unprofessional manner. This should be a warning to all voluntary worker. You have NO legal protection beware.
Jack - 26-Oct-16 @ 6:17 PM
Are volunteers exempt from whistleblowing policies? I have been told I cannot whistleblow as a volunteer.
Mimi - 21-Sep-16 @ 8:11 PM
FRED - Your Question:
Been a volunteer for 13 months and challenged the (paid) Manager about certain things mainly policies. including one he made and failed to follow it. Because I challenged him again. He let me continue the shift and allowed me to go in the following shift. Then on the Monday basically sacked me over the phone. To top it off he sent a reference in for a event I wanted to attend, which they put me on the roster. He then sent them an e-mail and they sent me one back saying they had withdrawn my application.What can I do ?I was really enjoying myself, making new friends and helping the community.I believe he felt that I was a threat to his job, which I'm not intrested in.

Our Response:
Do you have a volunteer agreement that details what the procedures are for dismissal etc? Have these been followed correctly?
VoluntaryWorker - 18-Jul-16 @ 12:12 PM
Been a volunteer for 13 months and challenged the (paid) Manager about certain things mainly policies.. including one he made and failed to follow it.. Because I challenged him again.. He let me continue the shift and allowed me to go in the following shift. Then on the Monday basically sacked me over the phone.. To top it off he sent a reference in for a event I wanted to attend, which they put me on the roster. He then sent them an e-mail and they sent me one back saying they had withdrawn my application.. What can I do ? I was really enjoying myself, making new friends and helping the community. I believe he felt that I was a threat to his job, which I'm not intrested in.
FRED - 17-Jul-16 @ 12:22 AM
My son has been volunteering for the RSPB for about 8 years as he is unable to find paid work. He thoroughly enjoyed this work and has gained a lot of experience through this. He has worked very hard for them and was always there to help them through hard times, i.e. the floods. But today at the end of the day they just told him they don't want him there any more as there is nothing more they can do for him. I would like to know if and what are his rights.
Mary - 20-Jan-16 @ 9:50 PM
@Dave. An interesting question. Volunteer.org.uk says the following: "While volunteers are not included in employment legislation, a small number of volunteers have in the past managed to demonstrate that they were in fact employed in the eyes of the law. This means that they would have access to some or all employment rights." You can read more here .
VoluntaryWorker - 29-Oct-14 @ 2:42 PM
A friend who has worked for a charity shop for six years has just been dismissed for making a mistake and is devastated. Where can I find information on the rights of a volunteer worker with respect to the process of being "dismissed" please?
Dave - 27-Oct-14 @ 4:50 PM
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