Are You About to Hire Volunteers for the First Time?

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis

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19 Jul 2019

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As we enter the summer months, you may consider taking on a few volunteers in order to provide additional support to your employees and allow some first-hand experience of your industry.

Volunteers are individuals who carry out unpaid work for organisations and, therefore, are not entitled to the usual rights that employees have.

That said, whilst you are legally able to take on some volunteers, you must be careful to ensure that the relationship between yourselves and them is not actually one of employment.

Hiring volunteers

Initial considerations

The first thing you should establish is what you actually want the volunteer to do within your company and how much you are going to expect of them.

You should not expect them to take on the full duties and responsibilities that you would expect of an employee and doing so could lead to claims that they are actually working for your company and not just volunteering there.

Before the volunteer does start, you should also consider if you need to subject them to a criminal records check. For example, these checks are a legal requirement for certain volunteering roles that involve direct contact with children or vulnerable adults.

Volunteers’ entitlements

A volunteer isn’t an employee, and so they should be able to specify when they would like to work and given the opportunity to refuse tasks if they want to.

To give another example, you shouldn’t expect a volunteer to help out every time at a company event just because they have offered assistance previously. It’s crucial that you therefore don’t become too dependent on volunteers being present in the general management of your company.

This is important, as you or the volunteer should be able to terminate the arrangement at any time and you must not prevent the volunteer from doing this.

A key point to remember is that volunteers are not entitled to the national minimum wage and, whilst you can offer to pay their expenses for food, travel or equipment costs, you need to be careful that these expenses are necessary.

A volunteer who is able to walk to your company every day will not need their travel costs paid for and providing this to them anyway could potentially result in them being classed as employees.

This would entitle them to numerous employment rights, such as the national minimum wage, and make you liable for failure to provide these.

Volunteers’ contract

Although you should never issue volunteers with a contract of employment, it’s highly advisable that you do produce a volunteer agreement.

This can confirm that their role is that of a volunteer and not an employee, as well as specify how long they’re expected to volunteer with you, the pre-agreed times that they are to do this, and any expenses you will provide.

Expert Support

If you’re taking on volunteers for the first time and would like some extra support, speak to a Croner expert today on 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis is the senior manager of the Litigation and Employment Department and assumes additional responsibility for managing Croner’s office based telephone HR advisory teams, who specialise in Employment law, HR and Commercial Legal advice for large organisations across the United Kingdom.

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Andrew Willis

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