Volunteering and job opportunities for those affected by the coronavirus

Updated on 8 July 2020

At the current time, losing your job is, sadly, a possibility for many people. However, some sectors are taking on new staff and there are also opportunities to volunteer for those who are out of work, or who are still in work but have some free time.

group of volunteers handing out food
(c) Shutterstock / LightField Studios

⚠️ We are working hard to ensure this guidance is up to date – however you should bear in mind that things may change on a daily basis as the Government respond to the ongoing situation.

Taking on new work

If you start a new job, you need to think about what it means for your tax position. We explain below how you complete a starter checklist, which is particularly important if you are taking on a second job.

Your new employer will also have a duty to consider whether you should be automatically enrolled into their pension scheme. Again, we explain more about this below.

Where can I find information about job opportunities?

Some businesses have found themselves needing to increase their workforce as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, such as in food logistics, preparation and retail.

Businesses are being encouraged by the government to post vacancies on the official job site Find a Job although a quick internet search should provide you with plenty of other options.

We understand there are also many fruit and vegetable picking jobs available.

Note that if you are 'furloughed' for the purposes of the Job Retention Scheme, then you may still be able to work elsewhere, to the extent your contract allows (if you are furloughed, you are only prevented from working for the employer or agency that has furloughed you, including performing such work through or on behalf of an agency for the agency’s clients).

How do I complete the Starter Checklist?

When you start a new job and you do not have your form P45 from your previous job, your new employer should ask you to complete a Starter Checklist (this used to be known as form P46).

The checklist asks you for certain information to help your employer allocate an ‘emergency’ tax code and work out the tax due on your first payday. HMRC will process the information you have provided on the Starter Checklist and where necessary, revise your tax code.

The Starter Checklist requests information like:

  • Your National Insurance number (NINO);
  • whether you have been claiming Jobseeker's Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance;
  • whether you have got a second job;
  • whether you are paying off a student loan.

It is important that you complete the Starter Checklist or provide the relevant information your employer has asked you for, as soon as possible before your first payday, so your employer knows what tax code to use. If you do not provide this information, you could end up paying the wrong amount of tax.

It is also important that you complete the Starter Checklist correctly – one major cause of tax problems for those in employment, is the incorrect completion of the starter checklist – in particular picking the wrong employee statement (A, B or C). You can read more about this in our news piece 'Why completing a starter checklist CORRECTLY when starting a new job really does matter!'.

Ticking box A incorrectly can lead to you being given the benefit of the full tax free personal allowance to set against your employment earnings, which may mean that you have a tax underpayment at the end of the tax year.

If you are furloughed and your new job is a second job then the appropriate box to tick on your Starter Checklist is box C. This will ensure that your earnings from your second job are taxed at the flat rate of 20% - we explain more in our factsheet on multiple jobs.

Give the completed checklist to your employer. Do not send the checklist to HMRC. Keep a copy of the checklist for your own records.

The checklist is available on GOV.UK.

Do I have to join my new employer’s pension scheme?

Employers have to have an auto-enrolment pension scheme. This means that they must automatically enrol eligible workers into a qualifying pension scheme, if they are not already in one. Workers not automatically enrolled will also be able to opt in to, or join, a pension scheme, if they wish.

However, employers can legitimately ‘postpone’ offering a pension scheme to their staff for up to three months, meaning that if you are with an employer for a very short period only, for example in a seasonal job, you might not be offered auto-enrolment, even if you are otherwise eligible. Employers might well postpone enrolling you in the present situation if they are taking on extra staff to get them through a peak in demand, for example, but might be thinking this is only temporary.

Postponement can be used in various circumstances, for example:

  • from the date an employee first becomes eligible for auto-enrolment,
  • on the first day of employment

If your employer chooses to postpone you, then they should write to you and let you know.

⚠️ Note: you can choose to opt in to the pension scheme during the postponement period.

To read more about automatic enrolment, see our employment section.

Where can I find more information?

You may find it helpful to read our news item: Taking on an extra job? Check your tax!

Volunteering

As set out on the NHS England website, NHS England was looking for volunteers to help people who have been asked to shield themselves from coronavirus because of underlying health conditions.

We understand this particular opportunity is closed to further applications, but there may be opportunities to help out other organisations. GOV.UK provides further guidance on volunteering.

The NHS Volunteer Responders initiative is being run, overseen and managed by Royal Voluntary Service.

For volunteering opportunities in other parts of the UK, visit:

What if I am reimbursed my expenses: are there tax considerations?

Even if you are not paid for the actual work you do, you may be paid expenses to compensate you for some of the costs associated with volunteering. These can include things like:

  • travel expenses (including home to work base)
  • postage and telephone
  • protective clothing.

Broadly, if you are reimbursed any actual out-of-pocket expenses you have incurred then there will be no tax or National Insurance contributions (NIC) to deal with for either you or the charity paying you.

If you are reimbursed expenses above the amount actually incurred or are given any other payment, then there may be tax and NIC consequences to think about. However, there is a £1,000 a year trading and other income allowance for tax purposes which means that, if you are not otherwise self-employed, small amounts of miscellaneous income like volunteer expense payments should not be taxable (although this would not apply if the income should actually be treated as employment income). Note, however, that the trading and other income allowance does not apply when determining 'income' for certain welfare benefits purposes – see more information below on the impact of volunteering on state benefits entitlement.

There are examples on GOV.UK which highlight some of the tax issues which can arise when you are volunteering.

There are statutory rates of mileage reimbursement that can be paid if you have used your own car for volunteering. Provided there is no profit element (i.e. no excess is paid), they are not subject to tax or NIC.

From 2011-12 First 10,000 business miles in the tax year Each business mile over 10,000 in the tax year
Cars and vans 45p 25p
Motorcycles 24p 24p
Bicycles 20p 20p


Example

Haled collects someone from hospital and drives them home – 5 miles there and 5 miles back – in his own car. He can be reimbursed £4.50 without any tax or NIC implications (45p x 10 miles)

The mileage rate covers the costs of running and maintaining the vehicle, such as fuel, oil, servicing, repairs, insurance, vehicle excise duty and MOT. The rate also covers depreciation of the vehicle.


Can I get tax relief if I am not reimbursed expenses?

We were recently asked this question: Can unpaid volunteers who are not employees and who are not reimbursed mileage claim (perhaps using a P87) a tax rebate for mileage?

The answer is, unfortunately, no.

There is no tax relief available to volunteers who incur expenses that are not reimbursed. Even if you have other income, such as employed or self-employed earnings, you cannot claim a deduction against that for expenses incurred as a volunteer. For deductions to be claimed on a P87 against employment income, for example, the expense has to be incurred wholly, exclusively and necessarily in the performance of your duties in that employment, not for any other purpose.

What if I want to waive my expenses?

It is often the case that volunteers offered reimbursement of expenses from a charity will waive those expenses or wish to gift them back to the charity (in this case, the Royal Voluntary Service). The most tax-efficient way of doing this is for the volunteer to receive the expense payment in question and then to gift it back to the charity as a Gift Aid donation.

For Gift Aid to apply there must be an actual payment donated to the charity; a waiver of expenses does not involve a payment and so would not count. HMRC recommend that for audit purposes at least one of the payments is made by cheque and clearly and properly recorded. You can find more information on GOV.UK.

It is important to note that to use the Gift Aid scheme, the volunteers must have paid enough tax in the year to cover the tax on the gift. If they have not, HMRC may decide to recover the tax from the volunteer if the charity reclaims tax that has not been paid. The volunteer may therefore find themselves faced with a tax bill as a reward for their generosity!

Can I volunteer if I am on benefits?

You will want to ensure that any voluntary work you carry out does not end up restricting any benefits that would otherwise be paid to you, or at least understand the potential consequences.

The rule of thumb is that volunteering will not affect your entitlement to welfare benefits or tax credits as long as you are only receiving the reimbursement of genuine out of pocket expenses. In any other event, benefits or tax credits could be affected and as this is your responsibility you may want to talk to your benefits office or HMRC to find out exactly what impact volunteering will have – each individual case will be different.

Further information is available on GOV.UK.

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