How are people employed in the voluntary sector?

By work pattern

  • Voluntary organisations continue to attract employees seeking part-time work, with 37% of voluntary sector employees working part-time compared to 29% of public sector and 25% of private sector employees.

Voluntary organisations have a higher proportion of part-time employees than organisations in other sectors

By contract length

  • 92% of voluntary sector employees are on permanent contracts and 8% on temporary contracts. This is a slightly higher proportion than for the public and private sectors where fewer people are employed on a temporary basis (7% and 5% respectively).
  • While the voluntary sector still has the highest proportion of employees on temporary contracts, the proportion has started to fall (from 9-10% between 2015 and 2018, to 8% in June 2019). Bigger fluctuations in prior to 2015 might reflect the limitations of the small sample size (see methodology).

The voluntary sector has the highest proportion of temporary contracts compared with other sectors, but the proportions has started to fall

Temporary contracts

  • Most employees on a temporary contract in the voluntary sector are on a fixed-term contract. This is higher than any other type of temporary contract combined.
  • The voluntary sector is less likely to employ people through ‘temping agencies’ than the public or private sectors, as well as offer casual types of work.

Most temporary employees in the voluntary sector are on a fixed-term contract

By occupation level

  • Overall, there has been little change in the breakdown of occupation level across sectors over the last nine years.
  • The voluntary sector, like the public sector, relies on lower managerial positions more than any other occupation level, with 46% of the sector workforce made up of these positions. This is comparable to the public sector (42%) but much higher than the private sector (23%).

The composition of voluntary sector employees is similar to the public sector – both relying more on lower managerial positions than the private sector

More data and research


  1. At NCVO, we use the ‘general charities’ definition for much of our research. This definition covers organisations that meet a number of criteria, and excludes organisations like independent schools, government-controlled bodies or housing associations. It gets us closer to what most people think of when they think of charities.