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

Volunteers' gifts and other benefits in kind and the minimum wage

Guide

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.

Volunteers and honoraria, gifts and nominal recognition items

A genuine honorarium in the form of an unexpected gift, with no obligation and of a small value is unlikely to mean they are entitled to the minimum wage. However, you should take care to ensure this does not create a contractual relationship whereby a person is undertaking work in return for gifts or rewards.

Items of nominal value such as pins, t-shirts or baseball caps given in recognition of volunteering, for instance to mark the successful end of a task or project, would be unlikely to result in the person being regarded as a worker and entitled to the minimum wage.

For example, Sue volunteers as a ball girl for a two week international tennis tournament. Sue is provided with a uniform of a blouse, tennis skirt, jumper and jacket. Sue's uniform is necessary to carry out her duties and would be unlikely to suggest that Sue is a worker.

At the end of the tournament she is allowed to keep this uniform and all 100 volunteers are given the opportunity to enter into a competition to win a holiday, which is donated by the local travel agents.

It is unlikely that this would amount to a benefit in kind or remuneration or suggest that Sue is anything more than a volunteer. Sue would not qualify for the minimum wage.

Uniforms and equipment

If you provide a volunteer with clothing they can keep, and is needed for their duties, it is unlikely to result in the person being regarded as a worker for minimum wage purposes. Any items provided must be:

  • reasonable - ie a uniform for a volunteer helping at a golf event is reasonable, providing a set of golf clubs is not
  • required in order for the volunteer to perform their duties - eg someone volunteering to usher crowds at an outdoor sporting event may need trainers, a jumper and a jacket to perform their duties

Volunteers and attendance at events

Where attendance at an event is necessary in order for the volunteer to carry out their duties this alone is unlikely to result in the person being regarded as a worker. For instance, where a volunteer sells programmes at a football match and as a consequence has free entry to the ground, watching the football match by itself is unlikely to result in the person being considered a worker for minimum wage purposes.

Training provision

If you provide training to a volunteer it will be a benefit in kind. However, it is unlikely to result in the volunteer being classed as a worker provided the training is:

  • for the sole or main purpose of improving the volunteer's ability to do the work
  • necessarily acquired in the course of the volunteering

As long as training meets these criteria, any resulting qualifications are unlikely to be considered a benefit in kind. Training over and above these criteria would result in the volunteer being considered a worker and entitled to the minimum wage.

For example, Artur has volunteered for an outreach programme run by his local community centre. Artur's role will involve interacting with elderly residents in the community, and offering them help with household tasks and odd jobs. Artur speaks little English and the community centre has offered him language training to improve his ability to communicate with the residents.

Artur's training will improve his ability to carry out his volunteering. Artur does not appear to be a worker or to qualify for the minimum wage for this role.

Food and drink provision

Reasonable provision of food and drink during the volunteering day would not suggest that the volunteer is a worker and eligible for the minimum wage.