Many organisations use the services of a volunteer and many people volunteer their time for a variety of reasons, perhaps for the experience, or the flexibility, or maybe for the simple reward of personal satisfaction.
A volunteer has a different status from that of an employee or worker. They have no real employment rights when compared to an employee or worker; indeed, their rights are limited to being safe at work (i.e. a risk assessment must be performed by the host organisation).
It is important that any volunteer agreement is worded in such a way so that it is clear that it is not intended to create a contract of employment. However, please note that employment contracts can be verbal only and, irrespective of any written agreement, the circumstances and dealings between the parties may take things further and give rise to a contract.
In order to avoid the risk of creating an employment contract with volunteers, volunteer agreements shall not set out the duties and obligations of the parties but shall only provide a framework for setting out the ‘reasonable expectations’ of the parties. If the agreement places obligations upon the volunteers there is a risk that the document creates a contractual relationship between the parties and amounts to a contract of employment. Furthermore, it is important that organisations avoid giving volunteers income and reduce perks that could be seen as ‘consideration’. In other words, volunteers should only be reimbursed for actual out-of-pocket expenses only as any sum over actual expenses may be regarded as a consideration, no matter how small it is, which could create a contract of employment.
This Volunteer Agreement template takes into account the points mentioned above and has been drafted to avoid creating a contractual relationship between a volunteer and the company. It addresses the possibility of volunteers being considered employees in the eyes of the law by setting out the aims and hopes of the parties (reasonable expectations) and by clearly stating that there are no obligations placed upon the volunteers.
Volunteers are generally excluded from the National Minimum Wage and receive only basic expenses. Expenses don't count as wages as they're repayment for costs incurred through volunteering. Normally expenses will be limited to money for travel, food and drink, as well as repayments for things that volunteers have had to buy in order to carry out the work. If a volunteer receives any other payment or benefit in kind for volunteering, they might be considered as consideration and the volunteer may be classed as in a contractual relationship like an 'employee' or a 'worker'. Furthermore, even benefits which are necessary for the volunteer to carry out their work, such as training, can be problematic if they’re understood in such a way so as to suggest an obligation on the part of the volunteer.
In summary, a volunteer might be classified as an employee if obligations are placed on them and/or if they get certain kinds of benefits in the role. For example, if they:
- receive training that's not directly relevant to the voluntary work; and/or
- receive a fixed regular amount for expenses that is more than they spend.
A Volunteer Agreement helps both the organisation and its volunteers by making expectations clear. This Volunteer Agreement provides a framework so that both parties know what is expected of them and it can be adapted to suit your organisation’s particular needs.
This Volunteer Agreement describes what the organisation will provide to all volunteers:
- supervision and support;
- training necessary for the volunteer role;
- insurance cover;
- equal opportunities;
- out-of-pocket expenses (where there are receipts or similar evidence of cost to the volunteer); and
- health and safety practice.
N.B. Volunteers have the same rights under the Data Protection Act as employees. This means that organisations must comply with rules on personal data about volunteers and that they can't process any of this data without permission.
Finally, please note that people under 14 years of age cannot volunteer for a profit-making organization.
This Volunteer Agreement is in Microsoft Word format, written in plain English, easy to use and edit.