What is the difference between employees and volunteers?

Volunteers don’t have the same rights as employees as they’re not paid for their work. They should therefore not have a contract of employment. You might be given a volunteering agreement, but this is not the same as an employment contract. A volunteer agreement should explain what you can expect from the club and what they may expect from you, but a volunteering agreement is not a contract between you and the club and does not give you any employee or worker rights at law. The main differences between an employee and a volunteer are:

  • A volunteer doesn’t get paid for their work. As a volunteer you’re not allowed to receive any payment, benefit in kind or other reward for your work. If you’re getting this you might be legally classed as an employee. This also counts for training that is not related to your volunteering role at your club. As a volunteer you may get expenses reimbursed but these should only be out-of-pocket expenses and not a pre-estimate of expenses.
  • A volunteer doesn’t have any obligations to the club - the voluntary work they do is of their own free will.
  • A volunteer agreement shouldn’t have any language that suggests employment. It should therefore not be called a contract but an agreement, and it should use words like ‘role’ rather than ‘job description’ and list ‘expectations’ rather than ‘duties’ or ‘obligations’.

See the following links for more information:

Sport England – Do we need to pay our volunteers’ expenses?

Gov.uk - Volunteers' rights

NCVO - Treating volunteers and employees