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New measures for working with volunteers

2 min read

The roundtable meeting was held in Melbourne to discuss Work Health Safety issues with Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten MP, officials from Safe Work Australia and the Department of Employment, Education and Workplace Relations, and senior representatives from a broad range of not-for-profit organisations.

One major outcome from the meeting is the plan to establish a group to oversee measures to cut red tape of working with volunteers. The group is expected to comprise representatives from the not-for-profit sector, Volunteering Australia, key volunteer-based organisations, the Fair Work Ombudsman, Safe Work Australia, and insurance and legal experts.

In addition to these outcomes, the roundtable agreed that:

  • Safety is just as important in workplaces involving volunteers as any other and that everyone has the right to return home safe
  • The scope of a volunteer’s duty to act reasonably is largely as it was before the harmonised laws
  • The application of penalties for extreme actions was based on state laws in existence before the harmonised laws
  • Social or domestic activities, including examples like foster care, will not be covered by the harmonised laws
  • Ongoing work and cooperation to improve clarity of the harmonised law’s limited practical consequences for grassroots volunteers would be most welcome
  • There will a new resource kit on national workplace and safety laws will be developed.

Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten MP said “The Government encourages people to continue volunteering and supporting their communities and will now provide even more clear information and guidance to volunteers who play such an important role in our communities.”

“Our latest discussions and new co-operative efforts will improve clarity of responsibilities and address any lingering confusion about the impact of harmonised laws. It also builds on the excellent work already done by Safe Work Australia in providing information on the application of the new Work Health Safety laws to the volunteering sector.”

The laws do not apply to volunteer associations which do not employ anyone to carry out work for the association. The activities of such volunteer associations and their volunteers are automatically exempted from the new laws.

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