The Act of 24 April 2003 on Public Benefit and Volunteer Work (Dz.U. No 96, item 873, as amended) is a good example of comprehensive solutions in the legislation on volunteering activities. The aim of the Act is to ensure balance between protection of basic entitlements of volunteers and flexibility of the legal relationship. Pursuant to the statutory definition – a volunteer is a natural person who provides services voluntarily and without remuneration, under the provisions specified in the Act (Article 2 point 3), where also a member of association may be a volunteer (Article 42 paragraph 3).
What is important, the regulations concerning volunteer work (with several exceptions) are independent of the Labour Law regulations. This is reflected, among others, in the provision stating that to agreements concluded between the beneficiary and the volunteer, within the scope not regulated by the Act on Public Benefit and Volunteer Work, the provisions of the Civil Code shall apply (Article 44 paragraph 5).This constitutes an important guideline for interpretation, which makes such relationships (within the scope not regulated by the Act) subject to the civil law principle of freedom of contract and not to the complex regulations of the Labour Law which serve other purposes. Moreover, provision of services by volunteers is not an obstacle for acquiring the unemployed status (Article 2 paragraph 2 point 1 of the Act on promotion of employment and labour market institutions).
In order to enhance security of rights of both parties, the scope, manner and time of provision of services by volunteers should be specified in an agreement concluded with the beneficiary, which has to provide the possibilities of its termination. Should a volunteer provide services for a period exceeding 30 days, the said agreement shall be made in writing, if for a shorter period, the beneficiary, at the volunteer’s request, shall confirm the agreement’s contents in writing.
The non-negotiable entitlements of a volunteer include:
right to information on health and safety risks connected with the provided services and on the rules of protection against hazards as well as about rights volunteers are entitled to and obligations they are responsible for,
safe and hygienic conditions of services provision, including appropriate personal safety measures determined by the type of services provided and the related hazard under separate legal provisions applicable to employees,
casualty insurance (if services provision lasts for a period of less than 30 days, such insurance is guaranteed by the beneficiary and if volunteer work is provided for a longer period of time, a volunteer is entitled to such insurance pursuant to the Act of 30 October 2002 on provision on account of accidents or occupational diseases resulting from specific circumstances)
if a volunteer is delegated to provide services in the territory of another state, where an armed conflict, a natural disaster or a natural calamity occurs – the volunteer is entitled to casualty and expatriate medical insurance, should their costs not be covered otherwise, in particular under the coordination provisions set out in the Act of 27 August 2004 on health care services financed from public funds.
Moreover, unless the volunteer releases the beneficiary in full or in part from such obligation, the volunteer is entitled to reimbursement of travel expenses and to allowances, under separate legal provisions applicable to employees.
The beneficiary may also cover: other indispensable costs incurred by a volunteer, connected with provision of services for the beneficiary as well as costs of trainings and third party insurance in relation to the provided services as well as casualty insurance and expatriate medical insurance (optional in other situations than delegation to the territory of another state, where an armed conflict, a natural disaster or a natural calamity occurs).
The deregulation of the relationship between the volunteer and the beneficiary is in particular confirmed by the tax provisions. Pursuant to Article 50 of the Act on Public Benefit and Volunteer Work, the value of a service provided by the volunteer does not constitute a donation to the beneficiary as defined in the Civil Code and tax regulations. From the standpoint of the rules governing the taxation of personal income tax law to the revenue, does not include volunteer service, provided under the terms of the regulations on public benefit and voluntary work (Article 12 paragraph 4 point 16 of the Act of Februrary 15 th 1992 on legal persons income tax, Dz. U. 2000, No 54, item 654, as amended. Whereas in accordance with the Act of July 26 th 1991 on natural persons income tax (Dz. U. 2010, No 51, item 307) tax-free is:
- value of benefits received by volunteers under the Act of law of April 24th 2003 on Public Benefit and Volunteer Work (Article 21 paragraph 1 point 113);
- value of benefits received from the volunteers, provided under the Act of law of April 24th 2003 on Public Benefit and Volunteer Work (Article 21 paragraph 1 point 117).
The state support is not limited to exempting the relationships between volunteers and beneficiaries from legal and tax burdens. The Act on Public Benefit and Volunteer Work in Article 5 paragraph 6 foresees establishment of organisation units appointed by the public administration bodies, with the view to support non-governmental organisations and the entities listed in Article 3 paragraph 3, in relation to public tasks which comprise also promotion and organisation of volunteer work (Article 4 paragraph 1 point 27). The Act of 22 January 2010 amending the Act on Public Benefit and Volunteer Work and some other acts (Dz.U. No 28, item 146) introduced Article 5 paragraph 6 which has been adopted in order to contribute to creation and enhancement of the civil society infrastructure, including the infrastructure of volunteer activities.