Abu Dhabi: A new draft law regulating voluntary work across the UAE was passed on Wednesday by the Federal National Council to boost the culture of volunteering and ensure that the outcome of voluntary work is consistent with the government’s strategies.
Hessa Bint Eisa Bu Humaid, Minister of Community Development, told the House that the new federal bill aims to spread and encourage the culture of volunteerism as well as regulate and develop voluntary work in line with the government policies and agendas.
“The new legislation calls for coordinating voluntary work across the country and establishing a database of volunteers to encourage them to register with the volunteer platform,” the minister said.
According to the draft law, volunteer organisations licensed to work in the UAE are obliged to provide volunteers with a healthy and safe environment, sufficient training and induction, insurance cover against injuries and clear description of assignments.
The volunteer organisations’ obligations include recording the volunteers’ data, the nature of voluntary work entrusted to them and the number of hours they volunteered in the database approved by the Ministry of Community Development; providing volunteers with the necessary equipment, tools and information and with insurance against injuries, infections and civil liability for harming others.
Entities accepting volunteers shall be responsible for all voluntary work expenses, including that of the treatment of volunteers for any damage sustained while performing volunteer work, provided that such damage is caused due to the fault of the bodies in which they are volunteering with.
Volunteer organisations have obligations to ensure that volunteers are not exposed to risks to their health or safety in their volunteer role. They must also provide the volunteer with the information and training he/she needs to perform the volunteer role safely.
It is the organisation’s responsibility to ensure that appropriate insurance cover is provided to protect volunteers.
They should have internal policies or procedures in place, including a statement on how they manage volunteer involvement. They should have clear procedures on how they deal with complaints and grievances. They may also have a code of conduct in place.
Public Liability Insurance covers the organisation’s legal liability to pay damages to a third party (such as a member of the public or clients of the organisation) for personal injury or property damage accidentally caused by a member of the organisation, including its volunteers.
The Community Development Ministry will advertise volunteering opportunities, keep data of volunteers and volunteer teams, document voluntary work, assess volunteers and receive complaints from volunteers or against them.
The National Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Management Authority will be tasked with overseeing volunteering organisations at the time of emergencies.
Those who break the law may face fines ranging between Dh10,000 and Dh100,000. Volunteers who reveal confidential information they may have come across as they carried out voluntary work may face a fine not exceeding Dh30,000.
Under the draft law, a voluntary work charter will be issued by the Minister of Community Development and the Cabinet will issue the executive regulations, three months after publishing it in the official gazette.
The law shall come into effect six months from the date of its publication in the gazette.
Rights and duties of volunteers
Volunteers have the right to: A healthy and safe environment, an orientation or induction session, information about the organisation they are working for, including policies and procedures, a volunteer position description or volunteer agreement which outlines the tasks that they will be expected to perform and the agreed working hours.
They have to be provided with sufficient training and supervision, be reimbursed for necessary out-of-pocket expenses, be protected by appropriate insurance, have their personal information dealt with in a confidential manner and be informed and consulted on matters which affect them and their work.
All volunteers are expected to be punctual and reliable, respect confidentiality, carry out the duties listed in their volunteer position description, be accountable, give notice if their availability changes or they are leaving the organisation and report any injuries or hazards that they notice in the workplace.
They also have to adhere to the organisation’s policies and procedures, deal with complaints in the appropriate manner, undertake training as requested, ask for support when needed, and support other team members.
Volunteers must also look after their own health and safety, and avoid putting others at risk. This means they must follow health and safety instructions, use appropriate personal protective equipment, report any injuries or hazards that they notice in the workplace.