Are you a volunteer, independent contractor or employee

Are you a volunteer, independent contractor or employee?

Some people place a lot of importance on labels and other people just don’t care but when it comes to your job classification, it is important to know exactly what your status is so that you know what entitlements you may have if something goes wrong.

Generally speaking, volunteers offer their time to an organisation without payment, independent contractors are commissioned by an organisation to perform a specific job for a fee and employees are paid to work for an organisation under an ongoing contract of employment.

The important thing to know from the outset is that whatever your organisation has decided to label you, it is just a label and can be disputed. It is the overall nature of your position and your relationship with the organisation in question that determines whether you are in fact a volunteer, contractor or an employee.

So why is your classification so important? Your status could become very important if you are injured while performing your role. Organisations are required to have workers compensation insurance to cover employees but not necessarily for independent contractors or volunteers. It could also affect your ability to claim leave entitlements, superannuation benefits, social security benefits and may determine whether you or your organisation are responsible for paying tax.

The court will look at a range of factors in order to determine whether someone is a volunteer, contractor or employee including things such as the degree of control the organisation has over the individual, if there is an obligation to attend at certain times/days, whether work is able to be delegated to others by the individual, whether the individual has to provide their own equipment or tools, whether the individual is required to wear a uniform identifying themselves as part of an organisation and whether an individual is to be paid for work undertaken.

While it might be attractive to some employers to take on an intern, or contract out some of their work to a so called independent contractor, recent decisions in the Fair Work Commission make it clear that employers need to be careful to not unintentionally create an employment relationship as award rates, superannuation and leave entitlements may need to paid. Likewise, recent decisions in the Workers Compensation Commission make it clear that so called volunteers or independent contractors are often considered employees for the purposes of workers compensation determinations. Who would have guessed that a bull rider at a rodeo, who might receive prize money if he placed one of the top scores, would be considered a deemed worker for the purposes of claiming workers compensation?

So even if you are not one to engage in labels, when it comes to volunteers, independent contractors or employees you need to know what your classification is to appreciate what entitlements you may have as a result of your role. If you have any problems with your employer or would like to discuss your potential entitlements, contact KC at WNB Legal on 0419 464 946.

I would like to give a big thank you to all of our dedicated community volunteers, and particularly the local Woolgoolga Surf Life Saving club members, for all the hard work that you do for little or no reward. Congratulations on the opening of the new surf club and best wishes for a safe summer patrol season.