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Volunteering is when someone spends unpaid time doing something to benefit others.
Helping your close friends or relatives isn't volunteering. But doing something to benefit the environment (and through that, other people) is.
Volunteering can be formal and organised by organisations, or informal within communities. It should always be a free choice made by the person giving up their time.
Volunteering is well established in the UK. Most charities and voluntary organisations involve volunteers in some way.
Some of the things volunteers do include:
Public sector organisations also work with volunteers. Their volunteering roles can include:
Volunteering can also be informal and not organised through an organisation. For example, driving a neighbour to a hospital appointment or tidying your local park.
Everyone has the right to volunteer. Volunteers can be any age and from any background. They can be studying, working or retired.
They might be employees for a company given time off to volunteer. They could be medical or legal professionals giving their time for free. They could be looking for work or seeking asylum.
Every volunteer has their own reasons for volunteering. These include:
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Volunteers aren’t employees and aren't covered by employment law.
It's important to keep a difference between paid staff and volunteers. It should always be clear that:
To make sure you're not treating volunteers like employees, you should:
NCVO members can read legal guidance on volunteers and employment rights.
Last reviewed: 12 April 2021Help us improve this content
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