When your organisation relies on volunteers, you may receive applications from prospective volunteers who are under 18 years of age. Can under 18s volunteer? What are the implication and how can you support their voluntary work?
Unlike with full-time employment, there are no legal restrictions applicable to volunteers but it is still good practice to make yourself aware of the legislation and ensure you have the right policies and procedures in place to make the arrangement mutually beneficial.
Legislation (Full Employment)
The youngest age a child can work part-time is 13. Whilst full time work can only be done by those who have reached school leaving age.
Although the definition of employment is restricted to those businesses that are ‘for profit’, it is worth noting that local authorities have the power to make bye-laws on the types of work, and hours of work, children can do. In some instances, for example, they may include charity shops within this definition.
You should always check with your insurer if (1) volunteers are included within the definition of employees, and (2) if they have in place any age restriction on either employees or volunteers.
It is advisable to obtain consent from either a parent or guardian for young volunteers. A detailed consent form is often the best starting point in conveying to parents and guardians exactly what it is that the role will entail. Such a form should include: the activity; where the activity will take place; supervision details; the duration and so on.
Child Protection Policy / Risk Assessments
The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 defines a Child as “a person who has not attained the age of 18” and it is for this reason that, when taking on young volunteers, your organisation makes sure it has in place a robust Child Protection Policy alongside the relevant risk assessments.
Good basic principles to adhere to:
- Where the role/type of work dictates, you must ensure the necessary DBS checks are made for both your current employees/volunteers and in some cases the younger volunteers you are taking on (although be aware that the minimum age at which someone can be asked to apply for a criminal record check is 16 years old).
- Young volunteers should not be left unattended
- It is safer if young volunteers are supervised by two or more adults
- Provide explicit/detailed instructions on the task at hand