Volunteer Work, Inclusivity, and Social Equality
The Philosophical Foundations of Labour Law (Hugh Collins, Gillian Lester & Virginia Mantouvalou eds., Forthcoming).
31 Pages Posted: 1 Sep 2017 Last revised: 16 Sep 2017
Date Written: June 22, 2017
Volunteers lack major workers' rights and protections, such as the right to a minimum wage and protection from discrimination. Yet volunteers often perform the same kinds of work as employees. Current attempts in employment law to distinguish volunteers from employees on the basis of volunteer work's civic, humanitarian, and charitable character are thus not only descriptively inaccurate but premised on an overly restrictive view of employment's moral potential. This contribution aims to lend stability to the legal boundary between employment and volunteerism by advancing a theory of volunteer work’s distinctive value. I argue that volunteer work is distinctive in virtue of its potential to be inclusive with respect to skill and ability. I refer to such inclusivity as "merit inclusivity." By offering people access to a broader range of social projects than their skills might offer in the labor market, merit inclusive volunteering opportunities can mitigate the risk that people's marketable skills will confine them to particular social roles. Distinguishing volunteers from employees on the basis of the work’s merit inclusivity can create a more principled legal boundary between volunteers and employees, and can preserve legal space for work that lessens some of the inegalitarian effects of the labor market on opportunities to participate in social life.
Keywords: volunteer work, employment law, minimum wage, antidiscrimination, inclusivity, egalitarianism
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