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What rights do our volunteers have?

I don't want to sound like Scrooge in the run up to Christmas but this is a question any organization engaging volunteers should definitely be asking itself.

The potential benefits of volunteering for all parties concerned are well known and I am personally a big advocate but if it is going to be done it should be done properly. That way both the volunteer and the recipient know exactly where they stand.

Not least as the costs of getting it wrong can be very serious for the recipient. In this regard it is important to highlight that an employment tribunal will always look beyond any title the parties have 'agreed' which means just getting the right paper work signed and calling an individual a volunteer is not enough. In practice if the 'volunteer' is operating more like an 'employee' or 'worker' they may well be entitled to claim unfair dismissal or a redundancy payment as well having rights to paid leave and minimum wage. As 2 of the key elements of any employment relationship involve an agreement to provide personal service and control by one party of the other this can be a surprising low test to pass.  

In addition, the other potential consequences of engaging with a volunteer should always be thought through such as recruitment/vetting, protection of IP and confidential information as well as any health and safety concerns. Even the rules around reimbursement of 'expenses' and 'gifts' can be complex and should not be ignored!

So by all means use volunteers. It's a good thing to do. Just structure the relationship right from the outset and don't use them as an excuse for cheap labour. 

Finally, don't even get me started on 'interns'.....

Should we pay more attention to our army of unpaid volunteers?”