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HMRC internal manual

National Minimum Wage Manual

From
HM Revenue & Customs
Updated
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Status: Issues to consider when investigating volunteers

Where an employer maintains that a person is a volunteer (NMWM05080) and not a worker (and therefore outside the scope of National Minimum Wage legislation) it is necessary to investigate the status of the potential worker to determine whether they fall within the definition of worker according to the National Minimum Wage Act 1998.

Many charities and other organisations use volunteers. However, if an organisation using volunteers offers them inducements to

  • secure a reliable contribution, and/or
  • to reward their performance

then they may create a workers contract and entitlement to national minimum wage will arise.

If a NMW Officer is asked to consider the status of a volunteer, as part of the status investigation (NMWM04020) they will need to pay particular attention to:

  • Does a formal contract exist? If so, is it an agreement which contains mutual obligations? (NMWM04080) If the contract expects something from the volunteer or places obligations on them that this will be indicative that the person is a worker.
  • Is the arrangement anything other than the volunteer gifting their time and skills to the organisation which they can withdraw whenever they wish? If the volunteer is bound to the organisation, either by inference, agreement, custom or practice then this will be indicative that the person is a worker.
  • Is the organisation controlling the contribution of the volunteer? If the organisation can impose requirements, obligations or standards on the volunteer, particularly if they assert such control by some form of detriment to the person (for example, withdrawal of training or rewards) then this will be indicative that the person is a worker.
  • Is the volunteer providing time and skills in return for some form of payment? If the work performed through volunteering gives rise to expected ‘rights’ or benefits then this will be indicative that the person is a worker. Examples of ‘rights’ and benefits include:

    • payments,
    • rewards,
    • honoraria,
    • gifts,
    • training courses,
    • expenses not actually incurred performing the work.