Some voluntary organisations will offer volunteer work to young people, although legislation restricts what those aged 16 and under are allowed to do. For example, under-14s are not allowed to work, either paid or unpaid, for a profit-making organisation.
Health and safety
Most charities and volunteer organisations have some paid employees. If this is the case, your workplace will be subject to normal government health and safety laws. Therefore, you should expect the same level of commitment to your health and safety as a paid employee. A risk assessment of your role should be undertaken and any action points arising from the assessment should be taken care of in order to comply with the latest legislation.
Your data protection rights should be identical to those of paid staff members.
If you’re from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), you won’t have any special dispensation to come to the UK as a voluntary worker. The government does offer some concessions, but it’s worth finding out if you’re entitled to take on voluntary work before you relocate. You may actually be contravening immigration laws if you don’t have the necessary paperwork.
Training, pay and expenses
If you’re volunteering, your role won’t fall under the national minimum wage rules, and any expenses agreed will simply repay you for costs such as meals, accommodation or travel that you have incurred as part of your role. Remember that you are not automatically entitled to claim expenses, so it’s worth checking this and putting a formal agreement in place before you take on the position.
You may be offered training, but you are not necessarily entitled to free training in your voluntary post. Again, it’s important that you ask what training you need to, or are able to, undertake and whether there are any costs involved that are not covered by the organisation.
Your volunteer agreement
Your volunteer agreement should cover the points listed above, as well as documenting the level of supervision and support you’ll get, and how disputes or conflict might be resolved. It should also include details of the organisation’s insurance cover and equal opportunities policy.
What to do if you find yourself in a bad situation
If you are unhappy with your situation as a volunteer, for example you feel you are being exploited or have been unfairly dismissed, get in touch with ACAS.