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

Voluntary workers' expenses and the minimum wage

Guide

Voluntary workers may not receive any monetary payment apart from the reimbursement of expenses incurred:

  • in the performance of duties
  • in order to enable them to perform their duties

In both cases you can reimburse either:

  • the expenses actually incurred
  • a reasonable estimate of the expenses likely to be or to have been incurred - you should be able to explain how you estimated the expenses reimbursed

Voluntary workers and expenses incurred in the performance of duties

Expenses incurred in the performance of duties are expenses incurred while the individual is undertaking their work. They could include, for example, having to travel from one site to another while performing duties, being sent to purchase something as part of the duties, or having to pay for a hotel while performing duties at a conference.

Voluntary workers and expenses incurred in order to enable them to perform their duties

Expenses incurred in order to enable a voluntary worker to perform their duties are expenses which occur outside of the voluntary work, but are needed to enable the voluntary worker to undertake it. These expenses must be both necessary to undertake the voluntary work and reasonably incurred. Examples might be:

  • expenses to cover the cost of care of dependants needed to enable the voluntary worker to do the voluntary work
  • expenses to cover the cost of a lunch during a break in the voluntary work - although the cost of the lunch should be reasonable and not excessive, otherwise it would not be reasonably incurred
  • expenses to cover the cost of travelling to and from the voluntary work

You cannot reimburse accommodation costs, such as rent, to voluntary workers. However, you can provide voluntary workers directly with reasonable accommodation in the circumstances of their role.

Example scenario

Nicola works full time for a charitable homeless shelter. She has to live at the shelter. She is not charged for her accommodation and she receives free meals from the canteen. She receives no other payments.

Receiving free meals and accommodation means that Nicola is a worker. However, the voluntary worker exemption would apply to Nicola because:

  • she is working for a charity
  • the accommodation she receives is reasonable in the circumstances of her employment
  • the meals she receives are reasonable in the circumstances of the employment

Nicola is a worker but would not qualify for the minimum wage.