May 10, 2017

What you need to know about volunteers and your startup

Updated: 8 December 2019

Have you thought about hiring volunteers at your startup ?

If you want to make use of volunteers at your startup, there are some things you should know to avoid legal problems.

1. Who is a volunteer ?

A volunteer gives their time willingly and does not get paid. They could undertake many diverse roles and they may be undertaking volunteer work to meet a course requirement.

2. Fair work ombudsman guidance

There is no obligation to attend work or perform work; and

3. Volunteer agreement tips

Here are some handy tips for drafting your volunteer agreements:

  • Clear agreement - call it a volunteer agreement instead of an employment agreement
  • Not legally enforceable - include a clause that reads “both parties do not intend to enter into a legally enforceable contract”.
  • Expenses - include a clause that states the volunteer will be reimbursed for reasonable expenses.
  • Notification - have a clause that requests the volunteer tell you if they cannot work their shifts.
  • Avoid words typically used in an employment agreement - e.g. work, appointment, salary, payment and “you must”.

4. Gifts and financial rewards

Be careful not to provide gifts or financial rewards to volunteers that can be construed as wages or payment for service, here are some situations to avoid:

Be careful not to provide gifts or financial rewards to volunteers that can be construed as wages or payment for service, here are some situations to avoid:

  • Payments that are made based on hours worked.
  • Payment that exceeds an expense incurred by a volunteer.
  • Lump sum payments.

Got questions or comments about volunteers? Be sure to leave them below.










About the author 

Vivian Michael

As founder and lawyer at Michael Law Group, CPA and owner of a business consultancy, Vivian is well-positioned to advise Australia's top entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs benefit from Vivian's commercially focussed legal advice, business experience, and commitment to deliver the best quality business legal services to entrepreneurs.

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