Certain criteria must be met to ensure that volunteers are exempt from minimum wage and entirely qualify as a non-worker. We have summarised some key points below…


A volunteer is someone who carries out unpaid work generally for charities and non-profit organisation and do not have a contract of employment but usually a volunteering agreement. Volunteers are not entitled to the national minimum wage therefore they are not classed as a worker.


Volunteers should not be working under an employment contract to work or provide services. Voluntary agreements are commonly used to outline certain expectations, such as;

  • Business rules and procedures
  • Insurance provisions
  • Health and safety requirements
  • Attendance expectations

As long as the agreement does not contractually oblige the volunteer to any work or services the agreement would be allowable under the volunteering criteria. However, if a legally binding contract is given to the volunteer, they would become a worker and would be entitled to the national minimum wage.


Although common, it is not required that expenses are paid to volunteers. Reimbursements can be made that wouldn’t make the volunteer a worker, as long it is wholly, exclusively and necessarily needed for the volunteer to perform their duties.


Training for a volunteer would be classed as a benefit in kind. Rewarding a volunteer with training could count as a benefit and would make the volunteer eligible for NMW for all work completed. In order for training to fall into the volunteer criteria it must be;

  • Necessary for volunteer to perform their duties.
  • For the sole purpose of improving the volunteers ability to do the work.
  • Necessarily acquired in the course of the volunteering.

Training outside of this criteria would result in the volunteer being considered a worker and would therefore be entitled to the minimum wage.

Other Payments / Rewards / Benefits in Kind

If you give a volunteer any payment, reward or benefit in kind, they become a worker and are automatically entitled to NMW for all work completed. This includes things like;

  • A promise of a future contract.
  • Paid travel expenses that weren’t incurred.
  • Benefits in kind such as free merchandise.
Payroll Penny’s Top Tip:

Keep records… And lots of them! Keep names, details, hours volunteered and any expenses that have been reimbursed (with a reasonable explanation of the expenses were calculated and paid).

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