The Road Ahead

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Volunteers who claim benefits

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People can volunteer if they claim benefits

People who claim benefits can volunteer as many hours as they like, but they must follow certain rules.

Here's how to make sure your volunteers' benefits claims aren't affected by their volunteering.

If your volunteers do have any issues with their benefits claims, they can contact Citizens Advice.

Be clear it’s volunteering

It’s important that volunteering doesn’t look like paid work. This could reduce or stop the benefit payments someone gets.

As someone involving volunteers, make sure:

  • any agreement you have with them doesn’t look like an employment contract
  • you only pay them out-of-pocket expenses and keep receipts or other formal records to show this.

Some volunteers will need money for their expenses upfront. It can be difficult for volunteers on low incomes to come up with money for travel or food.

In such cases, make sure:

  • the volunteer keeps and gives you their receipts
  • they return any unspent amount to you, or you take it from their next payment.

See guidance on writing volunteer agreements and on paying volunteer expenses.

Give volunteers the information they need

Volunteers must tell their benefits office about their volunteering.

This will need to include:

  • how many hours a day or days a week they will be volunteering
  • if this will change week to week or stay the same
  • what they will be doing
  • if they will get out-of-pocket expenses
  • anything else you give volunteers to help them do the role, which may not be money.

The volunteer must tell their benefits office if this information changes. They should also tell them if they stop volunteering.

If you need to change the volunteer's role or hours, you must let them know with as much as notice as possible.

Help volunteers meet their benefits rules

Jobseeker’s allowance 

Jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) is for people able to work and seeking work.

Volunteers claiming jobseeker’s allowance will need to:

  • be easy to contact about work
  • be able to attend an interview with 48 hours' notice
  • be able to start work within a week.

Employment and support allowance

There's no limit to the hours people receiving this benefit can volunteer.

They may need some flexibility to go to appointments they need to keep to claim this benefit.

Universal Credit

People receiving Universal Credit can still volunteer.

If they have to search for and prepare for work, this will usually be for 35 hours a week. Volunteering can count as a ‘work search activity’ for up to half (50%) of this time.

People can volunteer for longer if they choose to. If so, they will still need to commit half of their total hours a week to searching or preparing for work.

If you need to change the hours or days your volunteer does, you must give them as much notice as possible. They can then make other arrangements for their work preparation activities.

More information

Last reviewed: 12 April 2021

Help us improve this content

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 12 April 2021

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