Are minimum wage rules fair? DTI asks

The Department of Trade and Industry is consulting charities and voluntary sector workers about their views on the minimum wage. A document released this week states the department's view that existing provisions of the 1998 Minimum Wage Act are "clear and fair".

The act states that paid workers are entitled to the minimum wage, but voluntary workers – those who work under a contract of employment but do not receive payment – are exempt from the minimum wage. It does allow voluntary workers to be reimbursed for expenses and the cost of any necessary training. Volunteers, defined as people without any form of contract with a charity, do not fall under the provision of the act at all.

The DTI’s consultation document, National Minimum Wage and Voluntary Workers, concludes that section 44 of the act, which exempts voluntary workers from the minimum wage, is adequate to allow charities “to continue to operate as they have always done”. However, the DTI admitted that it has “little hard evidence” of how the act has affected voluntary organisations.

The document reads: “In general, we believe section 44 is operating as intended. For that reason, we do not propose to change it, but are open to views about that.”

In the foreword to the document Jim Fitzpatrick, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Employment Relations and Postal Services, said: “I hope that all those who work in the third sector will consider this document and provide comments. This is especially important as the third sector is very diverse, and we are keen to learn more about its experience of the 1998 Act.”

The consultation, which runs until 4 September, forms part of the Government’s review of how the provisions in the act have affected the third sector, undertaken following the recommendations made by the Russell Commission to establish a new national framework for volunteering.

The document is available to download and paper copies can be requested online. Responses may be submitted by letter, fax (0207 215 0227), email or online.

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