People can work for charities and churches in many different ways. Some are employees, some are office holders and some volunteer their time. As you manage and care for your staff, it’s important to recognize the difference between volunteers and voluntary workers.

A voluntary worker is not a volunteer in the normal or legal sense of the word.  A volunteer provides their services voluntarily.  A voluntary worker does not work voluntarily but is under a contractual obligation to provide the services for which he or she is engaged. This means they have different rights and you need to look after them in a different way.

What are the similarities?

Voluntary workers are not paid. Just like a volunteer, a genuine voluntary worker is exempt from receiving the National Minimum Wage. They must not receive remuneration for the work they do. They must be providing their services to a charity, voluntary organisation, associated fundraising body, or statutory body.

What are the differences?

Voluntary workers have a contract and they are entitled to the same rest breaks and holiday under the Working Time Regulations 1998 as employees (although holiday is effectively unpaid, as they do not receive pay on a working day).

Unlike volunteers, voluntary workers come within the Equality Act 2010, so they can claim discrimination.  This means that you could only limit your use of voluntary workers to only Christians if there is an occupational requirement for a Christian.

Voluntary workers are entitled to certain benefits volunteers are not, such as certain subsistence and accommodation.

What do I need to consider?

Before engaging a voluntary worker, you need to think about why the role is suitable for somebody with this status, rather than a volunteer or employee. How will you clarify the status of the voluntary worker? What documents will you use to make sure there is this clarity?

How can ECS help?

We have produced a set of model documents for use with voluntary workers  which are designed to give you the clarity you need when engaging voluntary workers. We have also have packs for use with volunteers, employees, office holders and workers.

Please give us a call if you want to talk through your requirements and find out how we might be able to help you.

call us email us


This information has been provided by solicitors working for Edward Connor Solicitors. It is designed for the purpose of knowledge sharing only and does not constitute legal advice.