Clause 14

Part of Employment Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 5:15 pm ar 14 Hydref 2008.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Pat McFadden Pat McFadden Minister of State (Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) (Employment Relations and Postal Affairs), Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 5:15, 14 Hydref 2008

This clause, too, deals with voluntary workers, but in a much wider sense. It broadens the scope of expenses that can be reimbursed to voluntary workers without triggering eligibility for the minimum wage. Again, I am sure that members of the Committee will be appreciative of the hugely valuable work done by voluntary workers in all our constituencies. The clause will mean that as well as being able to reimburse expenses incurred in the performance of duties, which has been the situation until now, organisations will be able to reimburse expenses that were incurred to enable the voluntary worker to perform the duties. That will enable expenses such as those for child care and travel to and from voluntary work to be reimbursed should an organisation wish to do that.

We received many representations about the issue from voluntary organisations throughout the country. We do not seek to place barriers in the way of voluntary work. In fact, we want to encourage, foster and promote it, and the clause helps us with that. Voluntary workers are a very special class of workers, both in the legal sense and in a more general sense. They can be employed only by charities, voluntary organisations, associated fundraising bodies or statutory bodies. The exemption for voluntary workers means that they can continue to give their time for free without being eligible for the minimum wage. In turn, it also means that voluntary organisations can continue to benefit from their dedication and pay them appropriate expenses, enabling them to carry out the voluntary work.

We are determined to ensure that voluntary workers are not out of pocket as a result of their good work, but at the same time it is important to ensure that low-paid jobs beneath the minimum wage do not emerge in the voluntary sector under cover of voluntary work. However, neither can we allow spurious expenses to be claimed as benefits. The clause strikes the right balance and minimises those risks.