FAQ's for Volunteers
Generally age isn’t a barrier to volunteering but depending on the type of role, the activity and the organisation there may be an age limit. This is largely a result of the type of risk that organisations face and what their insurance policy will cover them for. Additionally, some insurance companies place age restrictions on their insurance. Check with the organisation to see if they have age restrictions. Ultimately this is for the protection of the volunteer. If you aren’t able to volunteer with them, contact your local Volunteer Resource Centre to explore other options that will suit you.
No. This is why it is important that you check that your organisation covers you for Volunteer Personal Accident insurance, which may cover a portion of your salary if you cannot attend your usual paid work as a result of an injury while volunteering.
Even though Volunteering WA firmly believes that no volunteer should be out-of-pocket and that pre-approved expenses should be reimbursed, there is no set rule. It all depends on the funding available and this will vary from organisation to organisation. Before spending any personal money we urge you to check if your organisation has Policies and Procedures for reimbursement of pre-approved volunteer out-of-pocket expenses.
Every organisation has different rules and while it is not compulsory for volunteers to have a National Police Clearance, Volunteering WA recommends that organisations make sure they Police Check for volunteer roles that are high profile, deal with money or have contact with vulnerable people. If you are asked to get a Police Clearance, ask the organisation if they will support you to obtain and pay for the check.
The legislation is clear that if you volunteer with children you must obtain a WA Working with Children Check. The WWC is a compulsory criminal record check that ensures a consistent and high standard of checking for certain people in child-related work in WA. It is important to note the WWC is only valid in the state in which it is issued and is therefore not transferable between States. You will need the support of the Volunteer Involving Organisation to gain the WWC. Make sure you check to see if they support you to obtain and pay for the check. Volunteers under 18 years of age are exempt.
Rather than being the definitive check for volunteers, the WWC check is just a part of an organisations process to protect children.
Yes. Organisations are in existence to achieve their mission and volunteers need to support and not hinder the work they do. We ask all WA organisations to have a thorough set of volunteer Policies and Procedures to ensure that each situation is dealt with consistently and fairly. If a volunteer has a grievance about the way things are handled, please write to the organisation.
The only specific pieces of legislation that cover Volunteers are: bullying, privacy, protection from liability and health and safety. As a volunteer, your ultimate right is to say “no” and to stop volunteering. If you feel you can’t say no, or your matter is not covered by the above legislation or the matter is complicated, feel free to contact us.
Amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 have been in effect since early 2014 and it covers volunteers.
Bullying may involve, for example, any of the following types of behaviour:
- Aggressive or intimidating conduct
- Belittling or humiliating comments
- Spreading malicious rumours
- Teasing, practical jokes or 'initiation ceremonies'
- Exclusion from work-related events
- Unreasonable work expectations, including too much or too little work, or work below or beyond a worker's skill level
- Displaying offensive material
- Pressure to behave in an inappropriate manner.
In order for it to be considered to be bullying the behaviour must be repeated and unreasonable and must create a risk to health and safety.
It is your organisation’s responsibility to ensure bullying is identified early and dealt with appropriately so make sure you let them know you feel you are being bullied, preferably in writing.
If you feel the organisation isn’t taking action after you’ve made a complaint, you can put in a claim to the Fair Work Commission. There are forms and fees that need to be completed. The website will also tell you about the process involved.
Grievances come in many forms and can include:
- Having a problem with or about a person or system
- Not feeling appreciated or treated very well
- Being unfairly dismissed
- Feeling discriminated against
- Feeling victimised or bullied
- Feeling no one is doing anything about a problem volunteer
- Plus other complaints.
Every organisation should have policies and procedures to handle grievances. Check your organisation’s Grievance Policy and follow the procedure. If there is no procedure, put your grievance in writing to the most appropriate and senior person within the organisation.
I’ve already put in a grievance / complaint and it’s been ages and no one has got back to me!
This is unfortunate, however, as some volunteer managers only work part-time investigating these things can take longer. We suggest you write to the organisation and ask for an update. If there is a higher body / association you may wish to write to them as well.
Any volunteers who do not have permanent residency in Australia need to ensure they are keeping within the law and abiding by their Visa restrictions.
It is important that you make sure that you can legally undertake volunteer work on your particular visa. Generally if you have the right to work in Australia, you generally have the right to volunteer.