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What is a volunteer?

A volunteer is someone who enters into any service of their own free will, or who offers to perform a service or undertaking for no financial gain.

Features of volunteers include:

  • generally motivated by altruism, rather than to earn something
  • commitments shared between the parties are usually considered moral in nature, rather than legal
  • payment is unrelated to hours of work or the actual performance of work, and
  • payment often described as an 'honorarium' or gift.

A volunteer relationship is distinguished from an employment or contractor relationship by:

  • the lack of an intention by the parties to create legal relations
  • the non-existence of 'consideration' (that is, some form of agreed exchange of benefits between the parties), and
  • the lack of 'mutuality of obligation', in the sense that the worker is obliged to work and the employer is obliged to provide something in return.

The legal test to determine an intention to create legal relations is an objective one, and is not necessarily dependent on what you and the worker believe to be the situation.  The courts will focus on the 'practical reality' of the relationship, not necessarily any formal terms drafted by the employer.

For more information on Volunteers, please see our:

Information sheets

Common types of Volunteers

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Legal considerations

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WHS and Work Cover

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Volunteering agreement

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