The Law on Volunteering in Belgium
In Belgium, the statute of a volunteer is defined by the Law on Volunteering, which entered into force in August 2006. This legal framework for volunteering was set out by the Federal Parliament and implemented by the Federal Government, administrative bodies, etc. The Law on Volunteering is wide-ranging and applies to volunteering throughout Belgium.
Definition of volunteering
The Law on Volunteering defines volunteering as follows:
- Volunteering is unpaid. Volunteers perform volunteering activities without receiving any payment. Although volunteering is unpaid, volunteers can be given a limited amount of money, to reimburse their expenses or as a forfeit, for costs to be made;
- Volunteering does not involve coercion. A volunteer commits him/herself without any obligation; he or she cannot be forced to perform an activity. Although persons cannot be forced to volunteer, the moment they engage in some type of voluntary activity, a kind of (juridical) relationship (with mutual rights and duties) is established;
- Volunteering is undertaken for others or for the society. Volunteering means being of use to others who are not family or acquaintances, in an organization or for society in general;
- There should always be a distinction between volunteering and professional activities. A volunteer cannot perform the same activity both as an employee and as a volunteer for the same employer. A person can volunteer within his own organisation, provided that a clear distinction is made between the activity he performs as paid staff and the activity he performs as a volunteer.
Communities may set specific rules
The Communities have the right to set their own rules for volunteering by establishing decrees and other legislative instruments. All have to work within the framework set out by the Federal legislation, but they are allowed to adopt specific rules regulating specific aspects of volunteering such as funding, insurance, etc.
Protecting volunteers in the welfare sector
A specific decree was issued by the Flemish government concerning the protection of volunteers in the welfare sector. The decree states that organisations must insure volunteers against accidents and make provisions for third-party liability. Therefore, this specific decree goes further than the federal law.
EC study on volunteering
In 2011, the European Commission published a study on volunteering. You can read the key findings in the executive summary.