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Volunteer Work & Community Service Leave - Your Employment Obligations

As we battle on with this crazy weather in NSW, we are reminded of all the amazing people in our community who volunteer their time and assets to help others. In this time of need, employers still need to understand their obligations under the law to ensure that any risk is mitigated and that after the storm has passed, that any issues won’t arise in the future.


As per the Fair Work Act, when utilising a person in a volunteer capacity, there needs to be a clear line drawn between their role and unpaid work. A volunteer is defined as someone who ‘’does work for the main purpose of benefiting someone else’’. Often this work is associated with charities, churches, schools or not-for-profit organisations. To know if the volunteer role is genuine, there are three things that need to be met.

  1. The parties did not intend to create legally binding employment relationship

  2. The volunteer is not obligated to attend the workplace and perform work

  3. The volunteer does not expect to be paid for their work

The more formalised the volunteer arrangements are, the more likely that an employment relationship is to be found. For example, regular rostering of volunteers can often create risk, especially if the work is found to be in a for-profit organisation and the type of work is more for the benefit of the workplace. Clear volunteer arrangements are often in the not-for-profit space and the duties are for selfless purposes.


Community Service Leave is covered under the National Employment Standards and covers voluntary emergency management activity. Employees engage in a voluntary emergency management activity if they:

  • engage in an activity that involves dealing with an emergency or natural disaster

  • engage in the activity on a voluntary basis

  • were either requested to engage in an activity, or it would be reasonable to expect that such a request would have been made if circumstances had permitted

  • Are a member of, or have a member association with, a recognised emergency management body.

There is no set limit on the amount of Community Service Leave an employee may take and they may be absent from the workplace:

  • for the time they are engaging in the activity, including travel and rest time

  • if the absence is reasonable.

Community Service Leave is unpaid, except for Jury Duty where make-up pay is payable for the first 10 days of Jury Duty.

Karen Ansen Consulting provides legal advice regarding workforce and other employment related issues. Please do not hesitate to give us a call on 0407 863 017 or send us an email at to discuss.

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