Payments to Volunteers

Within the Methodist Church there is a substantial number of members and others who give service voluntarily in its ministry and mission.  The National Minimum Wage Act does not affect such volunteers, provided they are genuine volunteers working without pay.

It is important for the churches, circuits and districts and the volunteers need to ensure that volunteering remains an honourable arrangement and does not unintentionally give rise to legal rights and obligations. 

Avoiding the legal pitfalls

If a volunteer gets any other payment, reward or benefit in kind, they may be classed as an employee or worker, rather than a volunteer. This includes any promise of a contract or paid work in the future.

Being classed as an employee or worker gives people gives them certain rights. This could then result in:

  • Successful backdated claims for a minimum wage. 
  • Successful claims for unfair dismissal or for discrimination.
  • Backdated claims by Revenue and Customs for unpaid income tax and national insurance.

The payment to the “volunteer” is treated as ‘net’ for these purposes.

You should avoid giving volunteers:

  • ‘Pocket money’ not connected to actual out-of-pocket expenses
  • Sessional fees
  • Honoraria (one off payments for work done)
  • Lump sums or other payments to cover “expenses” that are not in line with the rules for expenses outlined above.
  • Regular perks such as free items in return for volunteering.

What rewards are acceptable?

Rewarding volunteers as a group (e.g. by paying for gatherings or ceremonies) is allowed as long as the cost is reasonable in proportion to the organisation’s total income and the scale of the contribution to its work made by the volunteers.

Small in-kind gifts to individual volunteers as a “thank you” (e.g. vouchers, tickets to events, flowers, chocolates) are permitted as long as the cost is reasonable in proportion to the organisation’s total income and to the volunteer’s contribution to the organisation’s work

Other Sources of Information:

Guidance on how to manage your charity's volunteers