Emil Ford Lawyers

How does Crocmedia impact volunteers?

Volunteers are a common, and in many cases, essential ingredient in the activities of CMA members.  What is the legal position of volunteers in light of the Crocmedia case? Interns who are employees must be distinguished from volunteers who work for a non-vocational purpose with organisations such as churches, sporting clubs, charities or community organisations.

Whether a person is a volunteer or an employee requires an assessment of the nature of the relationship between the parties.  Volunteers are not employees and are not entitled to be paid.  The more formalised the arrangement and the greater the obligations, the more likely it is to be an employment arrangement.

The Fair Work Ombudsman provides the following indicators of a genuine volunteering arrangement:

• the parties did not intend to create a legally binding employment relationship
• the volunteer is under no obligation to attend the workplace or perform work
• the volunteer doesn’t expect to be paid for their work.

The case of Teen Ranch Pty Ltd v Brown provides an illustration of these principles.  This case involved a volunteer for a not-for-profit Christian organisation that ran camps for teenagers.  The volunteer was injured on a camp.  Teen Ranch had a small permanent staff which was supplemented by volunteer staff drawn from a pool of about 150 teachers and university students.  The injured person volunteered on various camps as a leader, and received accommodation and meals.

The Court held that there was no employment relationship between the volunteer and Teen Ranch because the arrangements did not indicate that the parties evidenced any intention to enter into legal relations.  The Court acknowledged that the volunteer might feel morally obligated once he had committed to a camp, but found that the substantial motive was altruism, with no expectation of payment.

Not-for-profits should be reassured that the Courts will not construe a volunteer arrangement as one of employment unless it can be objectively characterised as an employment relationship.

Please contact  or if you have concerns about interns or volunteers working with you.


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