EVEN though volunteering has a long tradition in Slovakia, there was until recently no legal framework for performing volunteer work. That sometimes meant that volunteers were viewed as illegal workers and the lack of legislation governing their activities caused some problems in building more recognition of volunteering and volunteers. Slovakia’s parliament adopted a new law on volunteering on October 21 and it became effective on December 1, achieving a primary goal that Slovak volunteer organisations had set for themselves during the 2011 European Year of Volunteering.
“The law supports various forms of volunteering, it does not burden it with useless red tape, and it maintains spontaneity in volunteering,” said Alžbeta Mračková, the executive director of C.A.R.D.O., Slovakia’s National Volunteer Centre, which had pushed for the law, at the ceremonial end of the European Year of Volunteering on December 5.
Organisations active in recruiting and using volunteers see the law as a base for further development of volunteering activities in Slovakia and for better cooperation between the state and volunteering organisations, while noting that they are eager to see how it is applied in real life before judging whether the law will meet their original goals.
“We are very glad that this law was adopted,” Mračková told The Slovak Spectator. “The basic and most important outcome of this is that volunteering will no longer be viewed as illegal work.”
She believes the law is only the first step in building more cooperation with the state and she hopes that financial support and other forms of assistance from the state will follow as well.
Alžbeta Brozmanová Gregorová from the Volunteer Centre in Banská Bystrica, who was also active in drafting and lobbying for the bill, noted that the law provides more recognition for volunteering in Slovakia.
“I believe that thanks to this law we will be able to remove the legislative restrictions for development of volunteering in several organisations,” Brozmanová Gregorová told The Slovak Spectator. “I also view the law as important in the sense that by its adoption our country has confirmed that volunteering is a reality to which attention must be paid.”
Brozmanová Gregorová believes the law will help increase people’s awareness of volunteering and increase its standing in society.
“The law is the first step in creating an environment supporting development of volunteering activities,” Brozmanová Gregorová stated. “But only implementation of the law in practice will show what benefits the law will bring as well as what aspects should have been set up in a different way.”
The legal framework
The law provides a definition of volunteering and describes the legal status of a volunteer as well as other legal issues related to activities undertaken in Slovakia by volunteers and those volunteers who are working abroad, all issues not previously defined in legislation.
The law defines volunteering as an activity carried out without a claim for financial reward, in one’s free time and for the benefit of others. The law also enables teenagers (between the ages of 15 and 18) to be volunteers when their parents or legal guardian consent and they volunteer under the supervision of an adult.
The law also defines the kinds of activities that are not considered volunteer work, including things like activities performed by spouses or close relatives, business activities or other money-making undertakings, and work done under employment contracts.
Organisations active in volunteering generally have a positive view of the law’s final form even though certain changes were made during its adoption process in parliament which the organisations questioned. In this respect Mračková mentioned volunteering activities for public administration bodies. This change was proposed by MP Tatiana Rosová and it authorises the state government and regional governments to use volunteers not only for charitable purposes and for activities that benefit the public but also for administrative work. Rosová advanced the idea not only to save money for government offices but also believes it can help young people who acquire practical experience in public administration to get established in the labour market.
Mračková said it is fine that governments want to use volunteers but noted that this may lead to replacing employees with volunteers and other forms of abuse.
Mračková is also pleased that the new law permits those who serve as volunteers to assign 3 percent of their income tax to a charitable organisation while those who do not volunteer can assign only 2 percent of their income tax to a charity.
12. Dec 2011 at 0:00 | Jana Liptáková