Cookies on KnowHow NonProfit

We use cookies for both essential site functions and to improve user experience. If you’re happy to accept cookies then you don’t need to do anything. For more about cookies, including how to disable them, please visit our Privacy and data protection page.

Hide

Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

my settings

Treating volunteers as employees

An average rating of 3.4625000000000000 from 80 votes | Rate this page | Rating stats

Rating statistics for this page

3.5 out of 5 from 80 votes

Breakdown

30 votes

13 votes

12 votes

14 votes

11 votes

Close
Managers of volunteers need to be mindful of the risks when volunteers are seen as employees.

Organisations will want to keep appropriate boundaries between their paid staff and their volunteers, while endeavouring to ensure both are valued equally. While volunteers do not have the same employment rights as staff, do make sure that volunteers are treated fairly and consistently.

The main reason organisations find themselves in difficulties over this issue is when a volunteer has made a complaint and they felt it wasn’t addressed internally. They have tried to establish employee status in order to get the complaint resolved. This is a complex issue and the organisation may need to take legal advice.

Managing the risk

This is not a significant risk as volunteers are unlikely to want to be ‘employees’. However, if things do go wrong, the impact can be significant and an organisation’s reputation may be damaged. To manage the risk there are several things to consider:

  • anything that could be seen as a payment for work, for example, paying expenses should be a genuine reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses rather than a fixed amount per week
  • training offered should be linked to the role that the person is carrying out, rather than a general perk or enticement to volunteer
  • phrasing the volunteer relationship in terms of expectation rather than obligation
  • language that suggests employment – a volunteer agreement rather than contract, role rather than job description.

Useful links

Related content
Volunteers vs paid staff

Section leaders

Foster Murphy and Barbara Regnier

Sign up for our e–newsletter

New sign-ups qualify for a free training session from our StudyZone.

Find out how-to

How-tos are written by our users to share practical knowledge.

And if there isn't one already you can write it yourself, or request someone else write it.

Related how-tos:

See all how-tos