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Managing people

Not-for-profit organisations have the same legal obligations as any employer to their workers. Find out key legal obligations to your employees, volunteers and members.

Content last updated 11/06/2024

Managing volunteers

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Volunteers are an important resource to many, if not most, community organisations.

By understanding the legal issues relating to the engagement and management of volunteers, volunteer involving organisations can make sure their relationship with volunteers is meaningful, while being managed respectfully and safely.

What are the key legal obligations for organisations working with volunteers?

Your organisation owes its volunteers certain legal obligations and these are sometimes hard to work out.

Our National Volunteering Guide is used by volunteer-involving organisations across Australia.

Our guide provides an overview of the key legal obligations organisations owe volunteers and provides practical examples, template documents and tips to assist in their understanding. The guide is available for download below.

The guide is divided into six parts and covers the following key issues:

  • Introduction - what the guide covers
  • Volunteer, employee or independent contractor - The legal differences between a volunteer, employee and independent contractor
  • The volunteer relationship - Recruiting, inducting, managing performance and ending the relationship
  • Volunteer safety - Your organisation's responsibility regarding negligence, work health and safety, managing risk, insurance and child safe standards
  • Unlawful workplace behaviour - Protecting volunteers and other people your volunteers interact with from behaviour such as sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying and victimisation
  • Other legal issues - Intellectual property, privacy and record keeping

Download the full guide

National Volunteering Guide parts 1 to 6

Download in parts

Part 1 NVG Introduction
Part 2 NVG Volunteer employee or independent contractor
Part 3 NVG The volunteer relationship
Part 4 NVG Volunteer safety with annexures
Part 5 NVG Workplace behaviour
Part 6 NVG Other legal issues IP privacy and record keeping

Sample Volunteer Agreement or Deed of Agreement

We have created templates to help your organisation prepare a volunteer agreement or deed of agreement.

Working with Volunteers: A self-help tool

We have developed a Working with Volunteers tool to complement our National Volunteer Guide. 

This tool will help volunteer-involving organisations understand the key legal obligations that not-for-profit organisations have towards volunteers. The key topics include recruitment, safety, unlawful workplace behaviour, managing performance and ending the volunteer relationship.  

After completing a series of questions, your organisation will be provided with an opportunity to print a report containing an overview of the legal issues, recommendations and links for further information all based on your answers.  

Youth volunteers

Our guide provides an overview of the legal issues you need to consider when engaging volunteers who are under 18-years-old.

This guide covers:

  • what’s different about youth volunteers?
  • engaging youth volunteers, including inducting and training on workplace safety and behaviour
  • managing youth volunteers, including minimum working conditions
  • protecting youth volunteers, including mandatory reporting obligations and screening checks, and
  • insurance considerations
Engaging and working with youth volunteers guide

Volunteer support organisations

Peak volunteer organisations are a great source of information and can help support your organisation.

Volunteer matching organisations can help your organisation look for volunteers. You can also advertise online or in your local paper. We've identified organisations who can help.  

Regional groups, such as Volunteering Geelong, Leadership Ballarat and Western Region, Hunter Volunteer Centre and Gladstone Region Volunteering are a great source for regional based volunteer opportunities. Local Councils also often run volunteer matching services.

The content on this webpage was last updated in February 2024 and is not legal advice. See full disclaimer and copyright notice.

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