Many charities and not-for-profit organizations depend on the
dedication and hard work of their volunteers. Volunteer
contributions can include fundraising, promotion and advocacy,
governance, and service delivery. As such activities are
often integrated with day-to-day operations, and integral to an
organization's success, it is important to consider the
obligations arising from the relationship between volunteer and
As employers, charities and not-for-profit organizations can be
held vicariously liable for the actions of their employees. The
doctrine of vicarious liability can also apply to volunteers,
provided the volunteer is acting within his or her assigned role,
and the charity or not-for-profit exercises direction and control
over the volunteer's activities. The Supreme Court of
Canada has specifically rejected the premise that "an
organization's responsibility and control over its operations
diminish when it employs volunteers" (see Bazley v.
Curry, 1992 SCR 534). Organizations should therefore have
policies and procedures in place that address the roles and
responsibilities of volunteers as they do for their employees.
An organization's By-law and/or Code of Conduct typically
define the parameters for the organization's volunteer Board of
Directors. Developing job descriptions for other volunteer
positions can also assist with clarifying the extent of a
volunteer's authority, and can also define qualifications,
licences, record checks or other pre-requisites for a role.
Properly documenting expectations can also leave an organization
well-positioned in the event that it needs to restrict or terminate
its relationship with a volunteer, such that any impact on morale
and reputation can be minimized.
Volunteers, like employees, are entitled to receive appropriate
orientation, training, and supervision. Although this can
represent a potentially significant cost, professional development
opportunities can be an excellent tool for attracting and retaining
volunteers and building capacity in addition to protecting the
organization from liability in some cases.
Caution should be exercised before allowing volunteers to access
records containing donor, employee or other personal
information. Such data should only be accessible to the
extent that it is necessary for the volunteer to perform an
assigned task, and only after providing training on the
work, it may be appropriate to ask a volunteer to sign a
confidentiality agreement or put other oversight procedures in
place as appropriate.
In addition to ensuring that volunteers are adequately trained
and supervised and that there are adequate policies and procedures
in place, it is also prudent to review the organization's
insurance coverage particularly in cases where the
organization's operation has been expanded to incorporate the
role of volunteers since the insurance policy was last
renewed. The insurance policy should name volunteers as
insured parties, and should also be reviewed for coverage of
special events such as off-site fundraisers.
The relationship between volunteers and the organizations they
serve is reciprocal. Individuals willing to commit their time
and expertise are the backbone of many charitable and
not-for-profit organizations. For the relationship to be
mutually rewarding and beneficial, and with minimal risk, it is
incumbent on the charity or not-for-profit organization to lay the
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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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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