Volunteer rights and responsibilities
A volunteer environment is often also a workplace. You and the employer have certain rights and responsibilities.
Various laws protect the rights of volunteers while encouraging volunteering.
Work health and safety
Volunteers in organisations who employ paid staff have the same responsibility and accountability, under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012, as workers do. This means the organisation is responsible for providing volunteers with a safe working environment. It also means you have a responsibility to work safely and observe all relevant safety measures, including WHS policies and procedures.
Volunteer associations that don't have employees are governed by common law obligations. These organisations must take reasonable steps to avoid foreseeable harm, injury or loss.
Organisations can meet their responsibilities by:
- implementing a risk management plan
- making sure that supervisors and managers are adequately skilled to show volunteers how to perform their work safely and without injury
- ensuring that officers responsible for management of an organisation, including volunteers:
- learn about work health and safety
- identify particular safety challenges
- put work health and safety policies in place.
As a volunteer, you must be aware of your work health and safety responsibilities. For instance, you must:
- look after your own health and safety at work
- not do anything that will harm you or your work-mates
- use any safety equipment that you're given
- obey your employer's safety rules
- not take drugs or drink alcohol at work
- participate in an induction and sign off to show that you understand what's expected of you.
Every workplace environment is different. Contact SafeWork SA for more information about work health and safety requirements.
Anti-discrimination and equal opportunity laws address certain kinds of unfair treatment. For more information, see Legal considerations for the volunteer sector, and the Office of the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity website.
The Volunteers Protection Act 2001 gives legal protection from personal liability to volunteers doing voluntary work for an incorporated community organisation or government program, but doesn't cover personal injury matters.
To protect individuals in relation to personal injury, organisations may need personal accident insurance for volunteers. This can provide benefits to volunteers following injury, disability or death while carrying out duties for their organisation. Check that your organisation has appropriate insurance cover for you.
See the Volunteers Protection Act 2001 fact sheet from the Office for Volunteers website for more information.