Voluntary commitment: what are your rights and obligations?
What rights and obligations do you have as a volunteer and what should you take into account?
Voluntary commitment comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s a lot of meetings, sometimes a lot of manual work, sometimes working independently and sometimes in a group. But in whatever form, there is a set of rules for voluntary commitment that every volunteer should know. Volunteers commit their time for free so they should get something in return, no payment is not equal to no rights.
But voluntary commitment is not without obligation, the organisation is counting on you to honor your agreement. Unlike for people with paid work, little is arranged legally for volunteers. The rights and duties of volunteers are therefore mainly dependent on the agreements they make with the organisation. It is therefore important to have a clear agreement with the organization you will be working for.
The most important things to agree on are:
Type of duties
It is important that you agree on which activities you will do and which you will not, otherwise uncertainties can arise and this is annoying for all parties. Also ask if there are possibilities for interim change.
Training time and guidance
A thorough initial training is important. It is essential that during this period you are well informed about the organisation you work for and who works there. Make sure that you are entitled to regular supervision during and after the training period. Make agreements about the nature and content of the supervision and about the way in which the training period is closed out.
Working hours and holidays
It is good to make clear agreements about working hours and holidays and what you should do in the event of illness. With agreements about working hours you should also think of preparation and closing out; counseling interviews, travel time and (mandatory) meetings. With a lot of voluntary commitment, a notice period is desirable in order to complete and transfer the work properly.
As a volunteer you may incur expenses for the organisation for which you work. Organisations usually reimburse these expenses, but they are not obliged to do so. So make clear agreements about which expenses (travel costs and telephone costs, for example) they will and will not reimburse. There is a National Regulation on Expense Allowance for Volunteers, which means that an organization can pay expenses up to € 1700 per year to a volunteer, without either party incurring problems with the Tax Authorities or benefits agency. The amount of € 1700 must be spread over 12 months. If an organization wants to pay this amount within a shorter period, the organization must request an exemption from the Tax Authorities (the reimbursement is a maximum of € 5 per hour, a maximum of € 170 per month and a maximum of € 1700 per year) . Please note: as a volunteer you cannot automatically claim this amount of € 1700. No organization is obliged to pay you this amount. More information can be found on the website of the Tax Authorities.
A Certificate of Conduct (VOG) is a declaration which states that your past conduct does not constitute an objection to the performance of certain functions. For organisations that work with vulnerable target groups the application is usually free.
- Training options
Ask which training options are available. For example, training courses, themed meetings and professional literature. It is usual for the organisation to bear the costs. The organisation can attach a condition that you continue to work for them for a minimum period.
- Participation and inclusion
Anyone who has no say will feel little involvement in the ins and outs of the organisation. And those who do not understand why certain rules are in place are more likely to ignore them. Participation is a right that benefits the work pleasure, the question is, of course, how far does participation go. Every organization has its own rules that are laid down in the statutes and the rules of procedure. A copy of this can be requested.
What about volunteers and identification requirements? Can organizations just ask for a copy of your proof of identity?
In principle, volunteer organisations may not request or demand a copy of a volunteer’s identity document. An exception to this are volunteers who receive more than € 1700 per year in expenses.
Organisations may ask you to identify yourself during an intake, so that they know that they are actually dealing with the right person.
Organisations may not hold a copy of the identity document. You should be aware of this yourself and not issue your proof of identity.
As a volunteer you must be able to identify yourself at all times, with a valid proof of identity (no copy).
Finally, as a volunteer you can receive a maximum of € 1,700 in expenses (calculated as € 5 per hour), without the organisation having to report this to the Tax Authorities. If you receive more than € 1,700, the organisation must declare it. In this case, the organisation must have a copy of a valid proof of identity from you in their possession. Organisations are obliged to do so under the Work & Social Assistance Act.
The municipality of Leiden agreed a new volunteer insurance policy in 2015. The Volunteer Insurance Policy (via Meeus) is a collective insurance for all volunteers within the municipalities of Leiden, Leiderdorp, Oegstgeest and Zoeterwoude. Insured persons include: volunteers, social interns and informal carers.