Many charities and not-for-profit organizations simply could not
exist without the dedicated work of volunteers. While true
"volunteers" are not subject to the protections afforded
by employment-related legislation, organizations need
to consider some of the potential risks which may arise with the
use of volunteers. My colleague Michelle Henry provides some
information on some issues organizations need to consider.
Question: Is a volunteer considered an employee?
Michelle: Volunteers are generally
not considered to be "employees". That said, under
the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000, for instance,
the term "employee" is broadly defined as including a
person an employer allows, directly or indirectly, to perform work
normally performed by an employee. There is no definition of
volunteer in the ESA. As such, if the organization engages
both volunteers and employees, it is important to ensure that
volunteers are not performing the work of employees, and their
roles are kept as separate and distinct as possible.
Otherwise a volunteer may be viewed as an employee and may
havecertain rights and entitlements under
Question: Should there be a written agreement with a
Michelle: Yes, having a volunteer agreement in
place is recommended. Although not conclusive, an agreement
or written document which sets out the voluntary nature of the
relationship will be highly persuasive. Ideally, this would be in
the form of an agreement signed by both parties before any
voluntary activities are commenced. The agreement should
address issues such as the activities the volunteer will perform,
code of conduct, confidentiality and intellectual
Question: Are there any special considerations if
a volunteer is a minor?
Michelle: Yes, the organization should
obtain the written consent of the minor's parent or legal
Question: Does an organization need to get
workers' compensation insurance for volunteers?
Michelle: Volunteers are generally not
considered workers under workers' compensation legislation
where no form of compensation is provided to the volunteer.
Question: Are there any other concerns before
organizations take on a volunteer?
Michelle: There are a number of other
concerns, and they will depend on each particular situation.
I do want to mention two important areas. It is
important for organizations to have proper screening
protocols in place, and that appropriate background
checks are conducted on volunteers, especially where the volunteers
are working with vulnerable persons, such as children.
The second is that organizations can be held vicariously liable
for the actions or omissions of volunteers. Further,
volunteers such as individuals who are members of the Board of
Directors of an organization can be exposed to potential civil
liability. That being the case, it is imperative that
organizations have appropriate insurance coverage in place to cover
these potential liabilities.
I would be pleased to speak with organizations about their
particular situation before they take on a volunteer.
Under the Income Tax Act, the Employment Insurance Act, and the Excise Tax Act, a director of a corporation is jointly and severally liable for a corporation's failure to deduct and remit source deductions or GST.
Under the Income Tax Act, the Employment Insurance Act, the Canada Pension Plan Act and the Excise Tax Act, a director of a corporation is jointly and severally liable for a corporation's failure to deduct and remit source deductions.
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