Charity calls for widespread minimum wage exemption

Youth volunteering charity v has called for a blanket exemption from minimum wage legislation for all voluntary workers who receive benefits in return for their services.

The organisation made the suggestion in response to the Government’s consultation on the way the legislation applies to voluntary workers, which ended this week.

As the law stands, voluntary workers who receive anything beyond daily expenses – such as allowances for living costs or training that does not relate directly to their voluntary work – could claim to be entitled to the minimum wage.

One of the changes proposed by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform – formerly the Department of Trade and Industry – is to exempt organisations that are implementing the national framework for youth volunteering, such as v and ProjectScotland, so they can offer inducements to volunteers without fear of having to pay them a wage.

However, a spokesman for v said the charity would support the proposal only “if the exemption was applicable to the sector as a whole, not just those projects that are funded by v”. v is also urging the Department for Work and Pensions to change the laws that treat any extra inducements to voluntary workers as earnings – with implications for their benefit entitlement – and that oblige people on job-seeker’s allowance to actively seek work, preventing them from taking up full-time volunteering positions.

“v is calling on the DWP to consider, particularly in light of a reformed system of welfare support, how volunteering can be made accessible to all young people,” the spokesman said. “The situation will improve for young people if policy is joined up across Government.”

The DBERR consultation ended on Tuesday, though a spokesman confirmed the department would still consider any comments received after that date. He said the Government’s response would be published by the end of the year, after a period of “internal deliberation”.

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