Volunteers and voluntary workers

La Trobe University may be approached by members of the community to 'work' within the University as a volunteer.

A volunteer is a person who receives no remuneration or other payments in kind in regards to the works undertaken. They are defined in the summary of the Occupational Health & Safety Act 2004  as 'a person acting on a voluntary basis (irrespective of whether the person receives 'out of pocket' expenses').

Student placements

Students on outside placement or undertaking voluntary work with the knowledge and consent of the University are deemed to be voluntary workers but need to fill out a Work Placement (unpaid) form.

Guidelines for employers


Volunteers are not deemed to be employees for the purposes of Workers Compensation Insurance under the Accident Compensation Act and therefore they are NOT covered by the University's Workers Compensation insurance.

Volunteers are covered under the University's general and products liability protections. There is also limited cover under the University's personal accident and travel insurance while on campus or elsewhere in connection with University-related activities, including necessary travel to and from such activities (other than international travel). There is no cover for personal effects belonging to the volunteer and medical expenses are limited to Non-Medicare Medical expenses.

To obtain insurance

The following steps are relevant to students who volunteer to work at La Trobe University only. Other employers may have other requirements and forms.

  1. Complete a Volunteer form [DOC 106KB]
  2. Ensure form is held by the authorising department.

OH&S obligations

The area is required to complete an OH&S induction as they would with any new employee and document that this has occurred. It is suggested that you use the regular Induction for new staff checklist.

Any training regarding utilisation of equipment and protective equipment should also be documented. These documents should also be kept by the authorising department.


Generally, volunteers are unpaid. Occasionally volunteers may receive payment in the form of reimbursements, allowances and honoraria.

The Australian Tax Office defines payments to a volunteer that are not subject to tax as having many of the following characteristics:

  • the payment is to meet expenses incurred or expected to be incurred;
  • the payment has no connection to the recipient's income-producing activities or services rendered
  • the payment is not received as remuneration or as a consequence of employment
  • the payment is not relied upon or expected by the recipient for day to day living
  • the payment is not legally required or expected, and
  • there is no obligation on the part of the payer to make the payment

The simplest way for volunteers to recoup out of pocket expenses is for the organisation they volunteer with to reimburse them directly. A reimbursement for payment that covers the precise amount of expenses incurred by a volunteer. Reimbursements are not treated as assessable income and are therefore not subject to income tax.

Further information

Insurance Office

T: 9479 1238