Employing voluntary staff

Advantages and disadvantages of employing volunteers


Many not-for-profit organisations benefit from taking on volunteers, eg to serve on committees, raise funds, create websites or databases, and deliver mailshots.

Other businesses may offer work experience or secondment opportunities to help build links with local communities or within their industry, or to help attract potential recruits.

Volunteers can be motivated and flexible. It's also cost-efficient to use volunteers providing they are suitable for the task or role.

Employing volunteers - considerations

However, before taking on a volunteer you should consider:

  • Whether your organisation has a suitable vacancy for the volunteer.
  • The need for inductions and, possibly, task-specific training.
  • What workspace the volunteer will need. Try to minimise disruption and demands on paid staff.
  • In the absence of pay/benefits, the need to make them feel recognised, involved and appreciated.
  • Their need to work flexibly. Think about the needs of paid staff and whether you can adopt across-the-board flexibility.
  • The fact that, as an employer, you have a similar duty of care on health and safety issues to volunteers as to employees - see volunteers and health and safety.

Volunteers will need managing. Therefore, you could give a paid member of staff responsibility for co-ordinating volunteers and their training and supervision. This will help avoid friction between volunteers and paid workers.

You should consult volunteers on the level of involvement they would like, eg in meetings or discussion groups.

You do not have to get an AccessNI check for volunteers unless they are working with children or vulnerable adults in a 'regulated' or care position such as a care home or a school, or in an occupation/position covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Exceptions) Order (NI) 1979.

For more information, see AccessNI criminal records checks.

Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA) employer guidance on the voluntary sector.