Agreements on New Laws Affecting Volunteers in the Workplace
23 January 2012 at 4:35 pm
The Not for Profit community and the Federal Government have made agreements on a number of issues surrounding the new Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws affecting volunteers in the workplace, following a round-table meeting last week.
Two key outcomes were to develop a new resource kit on national workplace and safety laws as well as establishing a stakeholder working group to oversee measures to cut red tape.
The meeting was attended by Not for Profit representatives that utilise volunteers, the Minister for Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten, officials from Safe Work Australia and the Department of Employment, Education and Workplace Relations.
Bill Shorten said after the meeting that the Government’s new national WHS laws codify existing common law to ensure volunteers undertake their activities in safety and will not depart from current practice for volunteer organisations.
“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,” Shorten said.
“Our latest discussions and new cooperative efforts will improve clarity of responsibilities and address any lingering confusion about the impact of harmonised laws.”
The round-table also agreed on the following:
- That safety is just as important in workplaces involving volunteers as any other and that everyone has the right to return home safe
- That the scope of a volunteer’s duty to act reasonably is largely as it was before the harmonised laws
- That the application of penalties for extreme actions was based on state laws in existence before the harmonised laws
- That social or domestic activities – including examples like foster care – will not be covered by the harmonised laws
- That ongoing work and cooperation to improve clarity of the harmonised law’s limited practical consequences for grassroots volunteers would be most welcome
Shorten said the new WHS laws ensure that volunteers receive the highest level of protection wherever they perform their work across Australia consistent with the protections provided to all workers.
On behalf of attending organisations Volunteering Australia chief executive, Cary Pedicini said that the initiatives will help volunteer organisations comply with workplace relations, safety and other relevant laws and reiterated their support for the new harmonised laws.
Read our coverage of the Work Health and Safety laws here.
Want Pro Bono Australia News straight to your inbox? Subscribe now – it's free!