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Many not-for-profit (NFP) organisations rely on volunteers to provide a wide range of services to the people and communities they serve. However, many NFPs fail to comply with the very important – and often legally-enforceable – requirements to maintain proper records about their volunteers.

In this article, we take a closer look at what you should do now to protect your NFP.

Figuring Out Who is – and is Not – a Volunteer

Just because your organisation calls someone a ‘volunteer‘ doesn’t mean they are one! They could, instead, be an ‘employee‘ or a ‘contractor‘, even if that wasn’t what you had in mind. It’s accordingly very important for your organisation to understand the differences between the following categories of ‘workers‘:

  • ● Employees. These are people who have a ‘contract of service‘ with your organisation. This contract does not need to be in writing, but both parties generally need to have intended to create a binding contract with one another. Employees have a wide range of legal rights and entitlements under Australia’s employment laws, including minimum rates of pay and the ten National Employment Standards (NES). 
  • ● Contractors. These are people – or entities – that have a ‘contract for service‘ with your organisation. Unlike employees, they are not entitled to statutory minimum rates of pay, but they do have a range of other obligations and entitlements. Under the Fair Work Act 2009, it is unlawful to deliberately disguise or misrepresent an employer/employee relationship as a principal/contractor relationship. This is known as ‘sham contracting‘. Australian taxation and employment laws impose a number of tests to determine whether a person is a ‘contractor‘ or a ‘volunteer‘.
  • ● Volunteers. Unlike employees and contractors, volunteers do not intend to create a legally-binding arrangement with your organisation. Also unlike employees and contractors, volunteers are not obliged to provide their time or services, and they don’t expect to be paid for these when they do.

Your Record Keeping Obligations

Your NFP is more than likely subject to a range of strict and legally-enforceable record-keeping obligations imposed by a combination of:

  • ● state and territory-based workplace health and safety (WHS) legislation;
  • ● state/territory and commonwealth employment laws;
  • ● incorporated association legislation (if your NFP is an incorporated association);
  • ● state and territory NFP-specific legislation; and
  • ● your own funding agreements

Many of these record-keeping requirements will apply equally to your NFP’s employees, contractors and volunteers. Examples of the types of information you may need to keep about your volunteers include their:

  • ● name;
  • ● address;
  • ● role;
  • ● position description;
  • ● licenses;
  • ● registration documentation;
  • ● working with children clearance; and
  • ● criminal record check

These records should be safely stored – preferably in a secure online, SSL-encrypted and password-protected service – for a minimum of 7 years. Leading online services will also enable to you to store records for all your employees, contractors and volunteers in one secure location.

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