ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary Education

ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary EducationLead advisor on early childhood care and education 
National membership 

Publisher of the New Zealand-International Research in Early Childhood Journal


Volunteers – ECE Workplaces risk breaking the law when relying on free labour

© ChildForum


job interviewThere are many examples in the early childhood sector of different ways employers may rely on free labour, such as:

I was offered an unpaid position and it was a foot in the door as there were no jobs going in my area. I’ve been at ____ for four months and I do the same work as other teachers.

My centre manager told me to use a volunteer in the ratio for relieving instead of paying someone - I was very reluctant to do this.

Can our student who works on a voluntary basis three days a week and now has a practising certificate subject to confirmation be counted by the boss within ratio for the 80%+ qualified teacher funding rate? 

I cover lunch-times and do relieving at my grandson’s daycare and with me helping out my daughter doesn’t have to pay fees which she couldn’t afford cos the daycare is so expensive.

What are the reasons why a teacher-led early childhood service would accept a volunteer or ask a person to work without pay?

  • Some employers are just nice people wanting to help out a student needing a ‘home’ centre to be accepted into a training course.
  • Employers may be happy to help a person gain on-the-job experience and a reference or give them some additional 'unpaid' hours of regular work to maintain their full practising certificate.
  • An employer could be cash-strapped and this is most often the case for small owner-operator services and community-based charitable services.
  • The employer may be focused on making a profit and freebie labour helps them to achieve greater returns.

Or, the employer and the volunteer might not know employment law and Ministry of Education funding claim requirements sufficiently well to be aware of rights, entitlements and risks.

Here is important information you need to know.


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