How to participate in voluntary work
Everyone has the right to get involved in voluntary work, which means unremunerated work carried out for the benefit of individual people or organisations. By nature, voluntary work refers to public-interest activities, which do not generally involve any monetary compensation.
Voluntary work can be carried out by anyone interested, but not all types of voluntary work are necessarily suitable for everyone. You should check what types of tasks are available with organisers of voluntary work. Decide how much time you can spend and specify your own interests, skills, as well as limitations, as precisely as possible.
Voluntary work may also be carried out by individuals on disability pension, asylum seekers or refugees residing in Finland, etc.
Children and young people may participate in voluntary work in an age-appropriate manner. The work carried out by those aged under 18 should be light and the working hours should be reasonable.
As an unemployed jobseeker, you may do voluntary work that does not involve pay or any other benefits comparable to pay. Voluntary activities are also considered to be unpaid when they involve customary hospitality, or when an unemployed individual is reimbursed for costs arising from participating in the activities.
As a general rule, unpaid work done for a business enterprise or tasks commonly carried out as business activities or in employment are not considered to be ordinary voluntary work in the public interest.
Voluntary work is not a legitimate reason to turn down a job offer or any other employment support services, such as training. If you state that you are not willing to accept a job offered to you because of voluntary work, you will lose your right to receive unemployment benefits.
Think about what types of work you are interested in, find out what is on offer, and contact bodies organising voluntary work directly. You can either do voluntary work from time to time or over a longer term. You can participate in voluntary work both in Finland and abroad. Information about and work opportunities in remote destinations are provided by bodies such as NGOs involved in development cooperation.
If you live in Finland and would like to work as a volunteer in a foreign country or would like to come to Finland to work as a volunteer, you should first take a look at the international volunteering programmes offered by different organisations.
As the application periods vary from programme to programme, you should check the application instructions for each programme. Programme start dates, selection criteria and target countries also differ.
Read more about international volunteering programmes and how to apply for them:
- Kansainvälinen vapaaehtoistyö ry
- Allianssi Youth Exchanges
- European Solidarity Corps
- European Voluntary Service (EVS)
You can also search for suitable activities from the volunteering projects database at the European Youth Portal.
While voluntary work does not constitute an employment relationship, it does require you to assume responsibility, just like any other work. As a volunteer, you commit to doing your tasks to the best of your ability. If it does not work out for one reason or another, you are free to quit. Before starting voluntary work, find out about what you are committing to and what procedures are in place for problem situations. The organiser is obliged to provide volunteers with orientation for their tasks.
The organiser of voluntary work is responsible for ensuring the health and safety of volunteers as far as possible. You should find out whether the organiser has taken out accident insurance for volunteers, for example. Individuals are liable for any damage that they may have caused, unless expressly agreed otherwise with the organiser. You should find out your own liability in advance.
You are not allowed to receive pay or any comparable benefits in return for voluntary work. However, the organiser may reimburse you for any travel and accommodation expenses or other costs arising from such work based on supporting documents. The organiser may provide volunteers with something to eat or some other reasonable hospitality.
You don’t have to declare any voluntary work to the Finnish Tax Administration, because unpaid work does not generate any tax consequences. However, if you receive per-diem allowances or similar from voluntary work, you should declare these to the tax authorities as usual.