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HMRC internal manual

National Minimum Wage Manual

Entitlement to National Minimum Wage: Voluntary workers

Relevant legislation

The legislation that applies to this page is as follows:

  • National Minimum Wage Act 1998, section 44


Voluntary workers are workers (NMWM05020) who do not qualify for the national minimum wage.

A voluntary worker works for a charity, voluntary organisation, associated fund raising body or a statutory body who does not receive;

  • any benefits in kind, except some or all of his subsistence and/or accommodation which is reasonable in the circumstances of the employment, nor
  • any monetary payment, except

    • reimbursement of expenses actually incurred (or reasonably estimated as likely to be or to have been incurred) in the performance of their duties, for example purchase of required uniform or tools, or
    • reimbursement of expenses actually incurred (or reasonably estimated as likely to be or to have been incurred) to enable the worker to perform their duties and that are not accommodation expenses, for example home to work transport costs or increased childcare costs.

The only exception to these conditions is where the voluntary worker is employed to work under arrangements made by a charity (in the course of its charitable purposes) and the work is done for another charity, voluntary organisation, an associated fund-raising body or statutory body. In these circumstances the subsistence may be paid instead of provided as a benefit in kind.

For example:

A voluntary worker who works for a charity which specialises in placements with a hospital or charitable care home can receive money to cover subsistence during the placement.

Subsistence for national minimum wage purposes means such subsistence as is reasonable in the circumstances of the employment in question, and does not include accommodation.

There is no definition of what constitutes a reasonably estimated expense. So unless only actual costs have been reimbursed, a common-sense judgement should be taken to decide if the payment for expenses would be appropriate and realistically incurred in each individual worker’s employment. This will be particularly important where an employer is paying expenses as “round sum allowances” because there is a risk that some voluntary workers will receive expenses greater than can be realistically incurred.

Training is regarded as a benefit in kind unless it is;

  • acquired as a result of doing the job; or
  • is provided for the sole or main purpose of improving the worker’s immediate ability to do the job

Any other arrangements for payment or provision of benefits in kind, such as unreasonable expenses or training which is not required to perform the job, are likely to indicate that the person does not satisfy the conditions for the voluntary worker exemption and will qualify for the national minimum wage.

It was announced in a DTI policy statement in January 2006 that Community Amateur Sports Clubs registered with HMRC under the Finance Act 2002, schedule 18 will be treated as being a charity for the purposes of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998, section 44. This means that workers involved with these clubs (NMWM06240) who meet the voluntary worker criteria will not qualify for the minimum wage.

See also: Volunteers (NMWM05080).