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Legal status for full-time volunteers risks abuse by 'unscrupulous people'

16 Nov 2017 News

Sir Stuart Etherington has expressed concerns that a legal definition of volunteering could be used by ‘unscrupulous people’ to get round the minimum wage.

The chief executive of NCVO was speaking yesterday at an evidence session for the Lords Citizenship and Civic Engagement Committee. He said he had some concerns about a legal definition of volunteering, and about how it could be misused.

He said: “Unscrupulous people, and I am not saying the people who use it this currently are unscrupulous, but unscrupulous people might use this to blur the distinction between employment and volunteering to get around the minimum wage.

“It worries me that there is a point at which you are blurring the distinction between voluntary action and voluntary engagement, and paid employment. And the unintended consequences of this could be quite significant.”

Etherington also said it was “problematic” that a legal definition of full-time volunteering “differentiates between those that volunteer full time and those that volunteer for short periods, and you are saying this group get this benefits and this group does not.”

Several charities are campaigning for a legal definition of full time volunteering as currently full-time volunteers fall into the Not in Education, Employment or Training category. 

Etherington appealed on the committee panel with Neil Jameson, executive director of Citizens UK, and Matthew Bolton, deputy director of Citizens UK, who was speaking on behalf of Civil Society Futures.

Trustee board diversity

Etherington also told the Lords that a “significant initiative”, similar to the Lord Davies review of FTSE 100 organisations on the diversity of trustee boards, was needed to encourage the sector to have more diverse boards.

Etherington said there was an issue with sustainability of boards, and “unless we find ways of reviving the governance of organisations then we will be in deep trouble”.


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