Volunteering in the UK
There is a difference between unpaid employment (voluntary work) and volunteering, and you should always check with the organisation which offers you a volunteering opportunity whether it can be regarded as unpaid employment. This is because the time you spend doing unpaid employment counts towards your maximum number of hours of work a week. Student Route Guidance can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/points-based-system-student-route
Students can volunteer while they are studying. Voluntary work is distinct from volunteering.
A Student can do voluntary work if they are permitted to work, but this work and any paid work must not exceed the total number of hours they are permitted to work during term time. For example, if a student is permitted to work 20 hours a week during term-time and has paid work of 15 hours a week, they cannot do more than 5 hours voluntary work. If they are not permitted to work, they cannot do voluntary work.
Factors to take into account when considering whether a particular activity constitutes voluntary work or volunteering are:
• voluntary workers will usually have contractual obligations to perform the work (for example to attend at particular times and carry out specific tasks) with the employer being contractually required to provide the work – the contract does not have to be written - the worker is usually remunerated in kind
• volunteers do not have a contract - they must not be a substitute for an employee, and they must not be doing unpaid work – for example, receiving payment in kind (although they are sometimes reimbursed for reasonable travel and subsistence expenses)
• volunteers usually help a charity or voluntary or public sector organisation
This is not a definitive explanation of international student volunteering. For more information please look on the UKCISA website: UKCISA - international student advice and guidance - Student work.
Here are our top 10 things to consider before signing up to a project:
1. Community Ownership - is what you're going to be involved with actually going help a community?
2. Sustainability - will the project support people for years to come?
3. Impact - will your volunteering actually make a difference to local people?
4. Displacement and Cost of Volunteers - is the project likely to spend more on itself than helping people?
5. Representation - are the people your helping represented in some way?
6. Accountability - who is taking responsibility for the work and its outcomes?
7. Finances - do you know where any funds raised go?
8. Preparation of the Volunteer - have you been given all the info you'll need?
9. Skills Matching - is your volunteering matched to your abilities and capabilities?
10. Detailed De-brief - will there be a summing-up of all the good you've done?
To help you decide which volunteering project you should get involved with, have a look at these useful links: