National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage - volunteers and voluntary workers

Voluntary workers' benefits in kind or training and the minimum wage


For National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage purposes, a benefit in kind is a non-cash benefit or facility of any kind. Typically, a benefit in kind would have some monetary value and the provision of it would incur some cost on the provider.

Voluntary workers may not receive benefits in kind apart from:

  • reasonable subsistence for their voluntary role
  • reasonable accommodation for their voluntary role
  • certain training

Voluntary workers and training

The following examples of training would not be considered a benefit in kind for minimum wage purposes:

  • training necessary to perform the duties of the voluntary worker
  • training for the sole or main purpose of improving the voluntary worker's ability to do the work
  • training necessarily acquired in the course of the voluntary worker

As long as training meets this description, any resulting qualification would also be unlikely to be considered as a benefit in kind. Training over and above this would result in a person being considered a worker and entitled to the minimum wage.

Example scenario

Eileen works three shifts a week on the reception desk of a charity. In return she is receiving training on the charity's accounting and HR systems. She receives no other payments.

Eileen and the charity have entered into a relationship which is consistent with a contract. In return for the work she does, she is given training, which is not necessarily acquired in the course of her work or for the sole or main purpose of improving her ability to perform her work.

This indicates that Eileen is a worker for minimum wage purposes. Even though Eileen works for a charity, the voluntary worker exemption does not apply to Eileen because she is in receipt of training in excess of that allowed by the exemption. Eileen is entitled to the minimum wage.

If Eileen needed to use such training in her job, for instance if she was undertaking HR or accounting tasks using the systems she had been trained in, then Eileen's training would be considered as improving her ability to do her work, and the voluntary worker exemption would apply. In these circumstances, she would not qualify for the minimum wage.