Volunteers work for an organization or institution out of the goodness of their own heart. But that doesn’t mean the work is free of commitment. Both parties – the volunteer and the organization – have certain expectations of the collaboration. A volunteer contract can help to ensure that each party is clear on what the other one expects.
Examples of volunteer contracts
Just like a paid employee, a volunteer is also entitled to clarity, so certain agreements must be made between volunteers and the organizations they work for. Below are some examples of a volunteer contract.
Volunteer contract – is it worth it or not?
When is a volunteer contract worth the effort? What happens if the contract is breached? A volunteer contract is worth making if it is clearly set out and fully complied with. It is a formal confirmation of what you have agreed verbally and only becomes really important when discussions arise about the agreements or compliance with the agreements. The contract is legally valid, just like any other contract. But how would a judge deal with a breach in practice?
If a volunteer feels that their rights have been infringed upon, for example due to dismissal after volunteering for so many years, the court will not be able to issue a judgment against an organization very quickly. The reason for this is that the person concerned is a volunteer, not a paid employee.
However, it will be acknowledged that the act was at least unlawful and that the volunteer was not treated properly.
If a paid employee is dismissed, a contract cannot simply be terminated without penalty (unless there are reasonable grounds for the dismissal, of course). In such case, the employee would be entitled to claim for damages (such as a pay-off or golden handshake) or compensation. This compensation is based on the work performed and is also treated as such by the tax authorities.
In the case of a volunteer, it is more complicated. Paying damages to a volunteer may suggest that there was an employment relationship, with all the financial obligations that go with it (such as wage tax and bonuses).
Compensation for volunteer work is also a tricky subject. To avoid paying the compensation (which raises the question of how it should be calculated), an organization could choose to allow the volunteer to continue working, without really fitting within the team. Not ideal really.
So why have a contract?
A contract can be useful to define your working hours, expenses reimbursement arrangements, what to do in the event of a dispute, and your rights and obligations.
The best option is to draw up a fixed-term volunteer contract, which includes an end date. A contract with an end date means that it is automatically terminated on that date, so both parties are clear.
You can then consult with one another and review the previous contractual period, before entering into a new contract.
To sum up, a well drawn-up, fixed-term volunteer contract which both parties comply with is hugely important to ensure volunteers are treated properly within an organization.
(This text is a translation of an extract from a short article which appeared in VAKWERK, issue 1 2006, written by Edgar Kannekens, and published by CIVIQ Utrecht/MOVISIE).