Voluntary work

The Unemployment Security Act sets the regulations about your right to receive unemployment benefits when registered as a jobseeker and involved in voluntary work. The aim is to enable you to engage in voluntary work in the same way as, for example, a person engaged in paid work.

You may carry out voluntary work without losing your unemployment benefits provided that the work is in keeping with the regulations of the Unemployment Security Act, meaning that it is unpaid, of an ordinary nature and for the public good.

The central feature of voluntary work is that it is unpaid.

  • The provision of food or other normal services during voluntary work, especially if it is informal voluntary work, is not counted as a wage.
  • Work is also considered unpaid in situations where there is reimbursement of costs associated with participation in the voluntary work, such as tickets for public transport or the use of one's own car or mobile phone.

Informal voluntary work is normal neighbourly helping or equivalent activity in which, for example, one helps relatives or other people you know in some work task.

Voluntary work is work that promotes the public good or supports the activities of not-for-profit organisations and communities. This may include:

  • formal and informal voluntary work in sporting or other kinds of spectator events
  • providing peer support in different kinds of peer support groups
  • activities carried out by different associations
  • participation in social activities and events.

It is also typical of voluntary work that you engage in it when it suits you and you can stop it when you want to. Your daily or weekly amount of voluntary work does not affect your unemployment benefits.

If you report that you are not longer seeking work nor able to accept full-time work because of the voluntary work you are involved in, you no longer have the right to receive unemployment benefits.

  • Also, during your voluntary work we will provide you with job offers and offer you public employment and business services in the same way that we offer them to our other customers.
  • Furthermore, voluntary work is not a valid reason for refusing a job offer or an agreed service that supports you in finding a job, or for ending participation in such a service.

You do not have the right to unemployment benefits if you work without pay in a business or in other tasks which are normally carried out in an employment relationship or as business activities.

  • If the organiser of the voluntary work has occasionally had, for example, workers supported with wage subsidies who carry out the same or similar tasks to you, this does not mean that these are tasks that are normally carried out in an employment relationship.
  • For example, in sporting or cultural events or other spectator events, there may be both paid workers as well as formal or informal voluntary workers, but this does not mean that the work is normally carried out in an employment relationship.

Voluntary work can also be done with a community working for the public good, even if the work would normally be done in an employment relationship, provided that it is not focused on business activities. The Income Tax Act regulates separately activities which are not considered as the business activities of a community working for the public good.

As a general rule, it is sufficient if you notify us orally of your participation in voluntary work during your normal dealings with us. If it is not entirely clear that the voluntary work in question is in line with the Unemployment Security Act (unpaid, of an ordinary nature and for the public good), we will send you a request for information through which you can provide us with additional information about the work.

Instructions for customers in local government pilots on employment 

If you are a customer of a local government pilot on employment, notify your municipality of residence of any volunteer work that you are involved in. If it is not entirely clear that the voluntary work in question is in line with the Unemployment Security Act (unpaid, of an ordinary nature and for the public good), your municipality of residence sends you a request for clarification so that you can respond to it. 

Jobseekers’ services during the local government pilots