Volunteer or employee? A helpful example from South Australia

The recent South Australian decision of Wieland v Return to Work SA shows how not-for-profit groups can distinguish whether a person is a volunteer or an employee. In this case, Ms Wieland held a number of roles with Basketball SA, including referee coordinator, referee coach, and court supervisor. Ms Wieland received $500 per season for each role, as well as payments for her referee coach ($15-20 per game) and court supervisor ($12 per hour plus $1 for each game) roles. Basketball SA made these payments in cash, and Ms Wieland did not declare them as income for tax purposes. In 2017, Ms Wieland fell over and injured herself as she entered a stadium to participate in a meeting and act as a referee coach. Ms Wieland made a claim for compensation under the South Australian legislation for injured workers. To be entitled to compensation, Ms Wieland needed to prove that she and Basketball SA mutually intended to create a legally enforceable contractual relationship between them. Although Basketball SA had classified Ms. Wieland as a ‘volunteer’, the South Australian Employment Tribunal wasn’t satisfied that she was a volunteer. The Tribunal noted that, even though Basketball SA was a not-for-profit organisation that would be expected to engage volunteers, it also had employees. The Tribunal said that for the roles of referee coach and court supervisor, there was a direct correlation between the hours worked and the amount Basketball SA paid Ms Wieland, so the parities mutually intended to create a contractual relationship. Ms Wieland was therefore entitled to compensation for her injuries.

This case illustrates how the distinction between a volunteer and employee can be difficult to make, especially when a person has a number of roles in a not-for-profit organisation.

Justice Connect have a range of volunteer resources available to assist your organisation in understanding its obligations