ICAEW.com works better with JavaScript enabled.

Staff – employees and volunteers

Resources to help trustees manage staff and support volunteers.


A charity's staff and volunteers are a vital part of its assets and resources and are essential to the effective delivery of a charity's services to beneficiaries.

Charity trustees are responsible for ensuring that charities as employers fulfil their legal obligations and have developed and put in place effective staff and volunteer management policies. Trustees should therefore be aware of the charity's legal obligations as an employer and keep up to date with any changes in legislation. It is important that the charity knows where to look for advice and information on this issue and takes professional advice where necessary.

If the charity uses volunteers, the trustees need to be aware of the legal position of volunteers and regularly review the charity's policies on the support, training and use of volunteers. The key difference between volunteers and employees is that the latter are paid for their work by the employer in accordance with a contract. The Volunteers who are in receipt will not lose those benefits when they volunteer for the charity provided that they do not derive financial or other material reward from their volunteering work. These considerations apply to trustees who, despite their responsibility for running the charity, are volunteers themselves.

Law and regulation applicable to employees but not to volunteers

Employees must have a contract that states the terms and conditions of the employment. The terms will include details such as rate of pay, working hours, time off and holidays. Employees are entitled to:

  • the National Minimum Wage (there are some exceptions);
  • employment protection during business transfers and takeovers (TUPE);
  • protection against unfair dismissal;
  • consultation and other provisions in the case of redundancy;
  • right to equal pay for work of the same value under sex discrimination law and other legislation aimed at preventing discrimination in the workplace;

In addition, under recent pension reforms, employers will be required to enroll all employees into a pension scheme.

The following list of relevant legislation is by no means comprehensive!

Employment Rights Act 1996; Equality Act 2010; Asylum and Immigration Act 1996; Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992; National Minimum Wage Act 1998; Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of employment) Regulations 2006; Working Time Regulations 1998; Work and Families Act 2006; Part time workers (prevention of less favourable treatment) Regulations 2000; Fixed term employees (prevention of less favourable treatment) Regulations 2002; Maternity and paternity leave Regulations 1999; Temporary and agency work Directive; Employment Equality (age) Regulations 2006; Pensions Act 1994/2005; Employment Rights (dispute resolution) Act 1998; European working Directive; The Working Time Regulations (1998); The Working Time (Amendment) Regulations 2003; Race Relations Act 1976; Race Relations Amendment Act 2000; Sex Discrimination Act 1975; Disability Discrimination Act 1995; The Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999; Human Rights Act 1998; Protection from Harassment Act 1997; Malicious Communications Act 1998; Social Security Act 1990.

Law and regulation applicable to employees and volunteers

Trustees have a duty to make sure that children or other vulnerable people benefiting from (or working with) their charity are not harmed in any way through contact with it. All childcare charities must ensure that employees and volunteers (including trustees) have the appropriate Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks, and undertake criminal record checks on all prospective employees and volunteers.

The charity will need to keep certain personal information about employees and volunteers. All such personal information is subject to the provisions of the Data Protection Act which requires it to be secure, fairly and lawfully held, accurate and up to date, held for limited purposes, and not kept for longer than necessary. All employees and volunteers have the right to find out what information about them is held by the charity.

Trustees must ensure that the charity workplace is safe and healthy, in accordance with Health and Safety legislation.

Charities are subject to the Equalities Act 2010, which bans unfair treatment and helps achieve equal opportunities in the workplace and in wider society (though there are exemptions for charities in specified circumstances).

Other points to consider

Both employees and volunteers should be given a clear description of their roles and responsibilities and receive training and any resources necessary to enable them to carry out their duties.

Employees and volunteers (including trustees) are entitled to reimbursement of out of pocket expenses incurred in carrying out their duties. The charity should have a written policy in place which sets out what claims are covered and the procedures for claiming and approving expenses.

Although unpaid, volunteers have responsibilities, for example to comply with the charity’s stated policies and procedures including any confidentiality requirements.

Guidance, articles and helpsheets

Charity Commission publications

Charity Commission publications on pensions

ICAEW's charity resources