Your rights as a volunteer

What is your legal status as a volunteer?

Some volunteers have a contract to personally do work for an organisation and receive more than just their out-of-pocket expenses in exchange.

If this applies to you, then you may be protected as if you are employed by the organisation, and you should read the Equality and Human Rights Commission guide to what equality law means for employees. Information at the front of this guide tells you how you can get hold of this.

If this does not apply to you, then it is possible that, when you are taking up a volunteering opportunity with an organisation, this counts as if they are providing you with a service.

This means that the rest of this guide applies to you just as much as it does to other service users or clients. Voluntary and community sector organisations must avoid unlawful discrimination in how they treat their volunteers.

Your responsibility as a volunteer

Whatever your legal status, it is likely that you will be seen as acting on behalf of the organisation you are volunteering for. This means that if you break equality law by unlawfully discriminating against a client or service user, both you and the organisation could be held legally responsible for what you have done.

You can read moreĀ about when an organisation is responsible for what other people do. You may want to ask your organisation to follow the suggestions there about how they can make sure they have done what is necessary to tell you how to avoid unlawful discrimination. That may include giving you the same equality training as they give to any paid staff they have.

More information

Last Updated: 17 Apr 2014