Today is the last day of National Volunteer week when we celebrate volunteering in all its diversity.   It is a subject close to my heart as I am in the midst of organising a 3-day music festival in our village, which I hope will bring the community together and raise money for our church.  As soon as that finishes I will put on another hat and edit next month’s edition of the local magazine.

Millions of people in the UK volunteer, often in small groups or alone. Others work in larger organisations such as the CAB. If you have volunteers in your business it is important to ensure they really are volunteers and can’t claim the benefits and rights associated with employees and workers.

Here are a few tips to reduce the risk:

  • Avoid making payments to volunteers that could be construed as wages.
  • It is fine to pay expenses but make sure you only reimburse expenses actually incurred and not estimated expenses.
  • Avoid a contract. It is fine to have a volunteer agreement in place, which sets out your expectations of the role, but this should not be a legally binding contract. Avoid using contractual language such as 'rights' and 'obligations'.
  • Give the volunteer as much flexibility as possible. If they can refuse tasks and choose when to work, this will reduce the risk of a binding contract.
  • Differentiate between volunteers and paid staff by having separate policies and procedures in place to cover volunteers. Having clear procedures in place for dealing with any problems and grievances will reduce the risk of disputes.
  • Look after your volunteers!  They are a valuable resource.

If you are volunteering at an event this weekend I hope it goes well and your hard work pays off.   And if you need a break why not pop to Bramley for some music!  http://bramleymusicfestival.org.uk/