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Volunteering

Viimati uuendatud: 24.02.2017


A new activity – volunteering – has emerged on the labour market. It is work that people do from their free will and are prepared to do it for free.

In practice, volunteering has not emerged alongside the contractual works, but instead of them. So-called volunteers are employed who do work, but do not get any remuneration. Volunteers say they have been taken on to familiarize themselves with the work and show themselves as potential future employees.

This was common some time ago, when the trial days were massively used. Back then, employers claimed that a trial day is good for both parties as it enables to evaluate the suitability of the work and workplace to the employee. The trial day was not remunerated. It could be said that to date, volunteering has replaced the trial day, whereas volunteering could last even for several months.

The regulation “Employment Programme 2014-2015” by the Government of the Republic mentions volunteering as one programmatic activity for supporting preparedness for working. According to data on the website of the Unemployment Insurance Fund, volunteering favours employment, prepares for the working life, gives new experiences and knowledge, and helps to shape or preserve the working habit. It could involve several actions done in the public interest and for the good of the society. Volunteering is most common in the sphere of culture, education, social work, environmental protection, or some other area of public interest.


A registered unemployed person can participate in volunteering. The website also stresses that economic activity, earning a profit or saving up on employment costs cannot be the direct purpose of volunteering. A volunteer may not do such work for which a paid workforce is commonly used.

When checking the employer’s compliance to the Employment Contracts Act, the Labour Inspectorate emanates from the assumption that the person working at the employer is an employee and an employment contract has been concluded, and legally stipulated data disclosed to the employee in writing. If the employer does not have an employment contract to present and argues the person to be an employee, the Labour Inspectorate has a ground to believe it if:

  • The person is registered as unemployed;
  • The activities of the organization presume the involvement of volunteers.


If the alleged employer cannot prove that the relationship corresponds to the above characteristics, the Labour Inspectorate emanates from the empowering legislatory acts and employment relationship premise proceeding from the Employment Contracts Act.

If the person included as a volunteer finds that the work and working conditions actually correspond to the characteristics of an employment relationship, they can turn to the labour dispute committee to ascertain an employment relationship.

Similarly to trial days, using volunteers is one way to save on workforce costs and, if required, ending such a relationship is also much easier. When checking the employees’ registration, the Tax and Customs Board have discovered volunteers more and more often. Most work in retail sales, food and drink serving, and construction.

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