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Involving paid staff as volunteers

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Some paid staff wish to volunteer for their organisation. While there is nothing to stop this happening, it is important to avoid potential problems. To distance the volunteering from the paid work, the volunteer role should be substantially different to the paid role.

If this is not the case, and the total number of hours for both the paid and unpaid work divided by the employee’s pay came to less than the minimum wage, minimum wage inspectors might see the ‘voluntary’ work as being an extension of the paid work and could think that the organisation is not following the National Minimum Wage Act. The limits on hours in the Working Time Regulations 1998 might apply if the voluntary work is combined with the paid work.

Differences between the paid and unpaid roles will also help to avoid confusion in the organisation about the person’s role. However, there may be problems including confusion over the boundaries between roles and pressure to deal with issues from the paid work while volunteering.

If issues were to arise about the conduct of an employee while volunteering then it may be possible for disciplinary proceedings to be taken, in the same way that they could be for other behaviour outside of the workplace and/or working hours. In such cases employers need to be very clear about the seriousness and the relevance of the conduct outside of work, and, ideally, should have made it clear to employees that such conduct could be taken into consideration at work.

Organisations should get legal advice about such situations. 

Last reviewed: 19 May 2022

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 19 May 2022

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