Volunteer placements, rights and expenses
Volunteers' rights, expenses and placements
Give Back with These Volunteering Opportunities You Can Do From Anywhere
1. Find volunteer placements
Find volunteering opportunities on:
- the Do-it website
- in local communities through Community Service Volunteers or on local noticeboards (eg, in a library) or local newspapers
- the VSO website (for overseas placements)
- by contacting a local Volunteer Centre
- the Reach website for volunteers with specific skills - like accountancy, marketing, law, management, mentoring or IT
- volunteer opportunities for people aged 50 or older
- the Volunteering Wales website
- the Volunteer Scotland website
Register for volunteer placements at:
- the National Citizen Service website, if you’re 16 to 17 in England or Wales, or 15 to 16 in Northern Ireland.
- the International Citizen Service website, if you’re 18 to 25 and want to volunteer abroad
Help from Jobcentre Plus
You can find volunteering and work experience opportunities through Jobcentre Plus if you’re unemployed and looking for work.
Jobcentre Plus also runs volunteering and employment schemes if you’re a recruiter.
4. Pay and expenses
You aren’t paid for your time as a volunteer, but you may get money to cover expenses. This is usually limited to food, drink, travel or any equipment you need to buy.
You might be classed as an employee or worker rather than a volunteer if you get any other payment, reward or benefit in kind. This includes any promise of a contract or paid work in the future.
You get certain employment rights if you’re classed as an employee or worker, like getting the minimum wage.
Ellie volunteers at a company to get some work experience. She’s given travel expenses even though she walks to work. This is payment, rather than out-of-pocket expenses, so she must be paid at least the minimum wage.
Dave volunteers for an organisation tending local parks. All volunteers get Â£3 a week for travel but Dave is responsible for a park close to his home, so he walks there. This means the Â£3 is a payment and not a reimbursement of expenses. It could count as a contract of employment meaning Dave could be eligible for the minimum wage.
Joe is an unpaid intern at a record company, but he’s given free CDs as a perk. The CDs are ‘benefits in kind’. They mean he must be paid at least the minimum wage.
Amanda is a unpaid intern at a design company. She’s been promised that she’ll be taken on as an employee after 3 months. This counts as a reward, so she must be paid at least the minimum wage for the whole time she spends at the company.
2. Volunteers' rights
You don't have a contract of employment as a volunteer, so you don't have the same rights as an employee or worker.
You will usually be given a volunteer agreement that explains:
- the level of supervision and support you’ll get
- what training you’ll get
- whether you’re covered under the organisation's employer or public liability insurance
- health and safety issues
- any expenses the organisation will cover
The volunteer agreement isn’t compulsory, but sets out what you can expect from the organisation you’re volunteering for. It doesn’t form a contract between you and the organisation.
The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) has information on volunteers' legal status.
3. When you can volunteer
There’s no upper age limit on volunteering. However, some organisations' insurance policies don't cover you if you’re under 16 or over a certain age (usually 80).
You can't work for a profit-making organisation if you're under 14, even if you're not paid.
Your local councils might have extra rules about the work you can do as a young person. For example, you might not be able to volunteer at a charity shop if the council decides that it is a profit-making organisation.
People aged 50 or older can find volunteering opportunities with the Retired and Senior Volunteering Programme.
Volunteering and benefits
You can volunteer and claim benefits if:
- the only money you get from volunteering is to cover expenses, like travel costs
- you continue to meet the conditions of the benefit you get
Download 'Guide to volunteering while on benefits' (PDF, 372KB)
You can still volunteer in most roles if you have a criminal record, depending on your offences. You might need a Disclosure and Barring Service check if you want to volunteer with children or vulnerable adults.