Legal requirements


When it comes to volunteering the legal landscape can be incredibly complex. From corporations law, to fundraising regulations, to working with vulnerable people, there is a raft of information your organisation needs to consider when involving volunteers. The extent of the legal obligations conferred on your organisation will be dictated by your entity type, the programs and services you deliver, the demographics of your clients, and the jurisdiction in which you work. It is important to remember that community organisations and not-for-profits often have significant legal and compliance obligations.

Alignment with the National Standards for Volunteer Involvement

Complying with your legal obligations has crossover with all of the National Standards. If your organisation has a governing body they will have explicit obligations and fiduciary duties. More information on the relationship between the National Standards for Volunteer Involvement and the law can be found in the Not-for-profit Law National Volunteer Guide.

Not-for-profit Law

Not-for-profit Law, a program of Justice Connect, is a free specialist legal service for community organisations. They provide free or low cost, high quality, practical legal help for not-for-profit community organisations and do extensive work to advocate for the sector. Not-for-profit Law can help your organisation in several ways including:

  • Building capacity through free resources and training (online and face-to-face).
  • Free legal advice delivered through Justice Connect’s member law firms and barristers.
  • Law and policy reform work to ensure the best possible framework for the sector.
  • Tailored legal training on a fee-for-service basis.

Visit the Not-for-profit Law website and select your jurisdiction to find helpful resources and access free training.

National Volunteer Guide

To help volunteer involving organisations better understand their legal obligations, Volunteering Australia partnered with Not-for-profit Law to create the National Volunteer Guide. This six-part guide covers the following key issues:

  • Glossary of common terms and overview
  • Understanding the legal differences between a volunteer, employee and independent contractor 
  • Understanding your organisation’s legal obligations in relation to the safety of its volunteers
  • Protecting volunteers and other people your volunteers are interacting with from unlawful workplace behaviour
  • Recruiting, inducting, managing performance and ending the volunteer relationship, and
  • Organisational issues applicable to volunteers. 

The Guide also contains practical examples and template documents and is an indispensable resource for volunteer involving organisations.

Do volunteers have legal rights?

Volunteers have a number of legal rights, but these can differ across jurisdiction. The most important rights pertain to:

  • Work, health, and safety
  • Anti-discrimination
  • Intellectual property

In addition to legal rights, volunteers also have moral rights. These are things that volunteers may not be legally entitled to but should be able to expect from the organisation they are giving their time to. See our Volunteer Rights and Responsibilities resource for more information.

More information

Understanding your legal obligations can be tricky. There are many ways you can find out more, including by visiting the Not-for-profit Law website or by seeking independent legal advice.