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While a large number of Australia’s registered charities draw on the efforts of volunteers, a significant portion pay employees.

In fact, around half of Australia’s registered charities have paid employees. Charities are able to devote resources to employing paid staff as long as these efforts help the charity achieve its charitable purpose.

Taking on paid employees can be an exciting opportunity, and if your charity was previously volunteer-run, doing so may represent a new stage for your charity.

But it is also important to understand the responsibilities your charity has as an employer so you can ensure your employees have work conditions that are fair, lawful and safe.

This factsheet touches on some of the main things to be aware of when taking on employees.

Your obligations as an employer

If your charity takes on paid staff, you will have obligations to your employees as part of Australia’s workplace relations system.

Keep in mind that your charity’s legal responsibilities to an employee will be different to those it has to volunteers or contractors.

Before you take on employees, you need to do some research to understand your obligations as an employer, and to be aware of the costs and any other requirements involved. This will help your charity make informed decisions.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has detailed guidance about hiring employees – including information about types of employees, pay and wages, and leave entitlements.

Understanding employee costs

When your charity is considering employing someone in a paid position, one of things you will need to consider is the cost involved.

This cost can include wages and benefits (such as superannuation), as well as the costs for advertising and recruiting for a new position, and resources to support the new staff member – such as training and equipment.

There are minimum pay rates, as well as specific awards for different types of work, that your charity will need to meet.

Charities need to be competitive in the job market so they can recruit and retain quality staff, but it is also important to ensure that charity resources are always being devoted to the charity’s best interest and spent in line with its charitable purpose.

Therefore, it is vital your charity is aware of all of the costs of taking on an employee. You should feel confident that the charity is able to cover the full cost of an employee before taking one on.

For information about pay rates, overtime, pay slips, super and more, see the Fair Work Ombudsman’s guidance on page and wages.

Recruiting employees

If your charity hires paid staff, there will need to be clarity about their role. Developing a position description for the role your charity is looking to fill with a paid employee will help to achieve this.

The position description should provide an overview of the role, and include things such as the job title, a summary of the role and the charity, the employment type (full-time, part-time, casual), and the key responsibilities of the role.

The position description can also include the required or desired skills, knowledge, experience, or education your charity might want from those applying for the role.

Your charity will need to think about its recruitment process – how it will advertise the role, the selection criteria it will use to decide on the successful applicant, and how candidates will be assessed. outlines the steps for recruiting employees that your charity can follow.

You can also use the employment contract tool to create a letter of offer and an employment contract for the role.

Onboarding employees

When a new employee starts at your charity, an onboarding process will help them understand their role.

Onboarding can include:

  • signing an employment contract
  • providing the new employee with other relevant information, such as an information pack or induction process
  • providing information about any training they may need to do
  • organising required resources (such as a desk space, building pass, and IT requirements).

It is also important to know who the new employee will report to. It could be to another paid staff member, or perhaps directly to your charity’s Responsible People. has guidance about onboarding new employees that your charity can follow.

Other obligations

You need to check if there are any further obligations specific to the area your charity operates in.

Some charities undertake background checks of all employees. This may include requiring proof of identity, personal references and police checks.

Working with children or vulnerable people checks may be required by law if volunteers are working with children, older people or those with a disability.

Some roles may require an employee with a specific professional accreditation, such as a teacher or nurse.

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