Open navigation

People on state benefits may perform volunteer work, subject to a number of rules. This guide will provide information on the general rules as well as the specific rules for each category of state benefit that apply to volunteer work, the job-search requirement, and volunteer’s allowance.

7 tips

The general rules

All legislation relating to volunteer work performed by benefit claimants states that this work really must be on a volunteer basis. In concrete terms, this means that:

  • the volunteer work is unpaid. However, the volunteer may be reimbursed for the costs actually incurred, or may receive a volunteer’s allowance.
  • the volunteer work must be performed at organizations that are not liable to pay corporation tax, or organizations that are formally a sports association, a sports facility, or a public benefit organization (algemeen nut beogende instelling, ANBI).
  • the volunteer work must not supplant paid work.

The rules for each category of state benefit

In addition to the general rules, there are more specific rules that apply to each category of state benefit. Each tip focuses on a category of state benefits and the specific rules that apply. Below is a brief overview:

Benefits agency Benefit Obligation to provide information (declaration) Job-search requirement Limited, unpaid social work (tegenprestatie) Allowance or reimbursement
Municipality Social Assistance (‘Abw’), Older and Partially Incapacitated Unemployed Workers Income Scheme (‘IOAW’) and Older and Partially Incapacitated Former Self-Employed Persons Income Scheme (‘IOAZ’) (Funding) Act Yes Yes Yes Max. €764 per annum
As of 1 April 2017
Max. €1,500 per annum
UWV WERKbedrijf (the work placement branch of the Employee Insurance Agency) Unemployment Insurance Act (‘WW’) Yes Yes No Max €1,500 per annum
Work and Income (Capacity for Work) Act (‘WIA’), Return to Work (Partially Disabled) Regulations (‘WGA’) Yes Yes No
WIA, Full Invalidity Benefit Regulations (‘IVA’) No No No
Invalidity Insurance Act (‘WAO’), Invalidity Insurance (Self-Employed Persons) Act (‘WAZ’) No No No
New-scheme Invalidity Insurance (Young Disabled Persons) Act (‘Wajong nieuw’), as of 2010 Yes Yes No
Old-scheme Invalidity Insurance (Young Disabled Persons) Act (‘Wajong oud’), before 2010 Yes No No
Invalidity Insurance (Young Disabled Persons) Act 2015 (‘Wajong 2015), after 2015 Yes No No

About the job-search requirement

The exemption scheme for the job-search requirement, available to those receiving benefits under the WW or WIA-WGA and performing volunteer work, ceased to apply as of 1 July 2015. An exemption from the job-search requirement is now only available in emergency cases, to informal caregivers, or to a person who has given birth. A person entitled to a benefit must always look for paid work. This is why you may only work a maximum of 20 hours a week as a volunteer. If you are offered paid work, you must accept the employment offer – even if this means you must stop performing volunteer work. Failing to accept the employment offer may have consequences for your benefit payments.

Our tips

Tip 1: Benefits under the Unemployment Insurance Act

The Unemployment Insurance Act (Werkloosheidswet, WW) provides insurance to unemployed employees who do not work, or work fewer hours, and consequentially have no income. The amount and duration of the payments depend on the person’s employment history. Benefits under the WW must be applied for at the ‘UWV WERKbedrijf,’ the work placement branch of the Employee Insurance Agency.

You are usually allowed to perform volunteer work while you receive your benefits under the WW, but you must remain available for the labour market. You must also declare that you are performing volunteer work. The benefits agency will assess your availability for the labour market. If you are less available for the labour market – e.g. because you are performing volunteer work – this may affect the amount of benefit you receive. As a general rule, all WW benefit claimants must fulfil the job-search requirement.

The volunteer work must not ‘supplant’ paid work. Volunteer work is deemed to have ‘supplanted’ paid work if the volunteer work would usually have been paid work within the organization, and this paid work was performed by an employee in the past year.

Tip 2: Benefits under the Participation Act

The previous Work and Social Assistance Act (Wet werk en bijstand, Wwb) has been included in the Participation Act (Participatiewet). The Participation Act aims to help as many people as possible to find employment. It is available to everyone, even those with no occupational impairment. Your volunteer work may not negatively affect your chances of finding paid work. In concrete terms, this means that a person entitled to a benefit is obliged to accept and maintain the employment they have been offered. You must also cease to perform volunteer work if this is incompatible with an offer of paid employment. The Participation Act assumes that this work is ‘generally accepted work’ instead of ‘suitable work’. ‘Generally accepted work’ means legal work that is universally considered normal employment. Of course, you are free to perform volunteer work in your free time.

Tip 3: Social assistance benefits

You are allowed to perform volunteer work while you receive social assistance benefits (bijstandsuitkering), but you must declare this work at the benefits agency. If you are aged over 27, you are entitled to a ‘volunteer’s allowance’ to cover the expenses associated with the volunteer work. This allowance varies from €150 a month to a maximum of €1,500 a month. Instead of the volunteer’s allowance, the municipality may grant a one-time or two-time contribution of maximum €2,340 (figure for 2015) per calendar year, as far as the Municipal Executive deems that the volunteer work supports the worker’s integration into the workforce. Other agencies may also pay this contribution, but must first submit this for approval to the Municipal Executive who will decide whether the contribution supports benefit claimants’ integration into the workforce. The contribution does not affect the amount of benefits you receive, provided that you do not receive a volunteer’s allowance. If you receive a volunteer’s allowance in addition to this contribution, the contribution is considered as a source of income and as such is taxable.

If you are under 27 and receive social assistance benefits, each payment that is not an allowance to cover the actual expenses incurred is deducted from your benefits.

Tip 4: Limited, unpaid social work

According to the Participation Act, benefit claimants must perform unpaid social work (tegenprestatie). This work is limited in duration and scope and must be ‘socially useful’. Each municipality lays down the nature, scope, and duration of this work in their local ordinance. This work is characterized as follows:

  • The work is not intended as a reintegration tool, but as a means of helping you find employment again.
  • The work may not interfere with your reintegration or prevent you from taking on ‘generally accepted’ work.
  • The work must be limited in scope and duration.
  • The work must be a complementary activity that does not supplant paid work.

The following people are exempted from carrying out this work:

  • single parents with children aged 5 and below
  • a person with a long-term disability
  • informal caregivers
  • volunteers whose volunteer work is deemed by the Municipality as being unpaid social work (tegenprestatie).

Tip 5: Full or partial incapacity for work

The Work and Income (Capacity for Work) Act (Wet werk en inkomen naar arbeidsvermogen, WIA) applies to each person who became incapacitated after 1 January 2004 and does not receive a statutory incapacity benefit under the Invalidity Insurance Act (Wet op de arbeidsongeschiktheidsverzekering, WAO). The WIA is a two-tier employee insurance scheme, comprising the Return to Work (Partially Disabled) Regulations (Regeling werkhervatting gedeeltelijk arbeidsgechikten, WGA) and the Full Invalidity Benefit Regulations (Regeling inkomensvoorziening volledig arbeidsongeschikten, IVA). Just like the WAO, benefit claimants under the WIA may perform volunteer work and receive the maximum permissible volunteer’s allowance. The difference comes in the duty to report (declaration). While benefit claimants under the WGA must declare their volunteer work and the number of hours spent on this work to the Employee Insurance Agency (UVA), benefit claimants under the IVA do not need to do this.

Tip 6: Invalidity Insurance (Young Disabled Persons) Act

The Invalidity Insurance (Young Disabled Persons) Act (Wet arbeidsongeschiktheidsvoorziening jonggehandicapten, Wajong) is intended for people under 18 with a long-term illness or disability, or for people aged between 18 and 30 in education and who are unable to work as a result of a long-term illness or disability. Since 1 January 2015, the Participation Act has applied to young people who are still partially able to work with or without support. The Dutch government also decided that the UWV would reassess each person who received benefits under the Wajong between 2010 and 2015, to ascertain their ability to work. Young people who are unable to work will continue to receive benefits under the Wajong. All those in receipt of benefits under the Wajong before 2010 will continue to receive these benefits.

Each person in receipt of benefits under the Wajong after 2010 are obliged to declare their volunteer work. All those in receipt of benefits under the Wajong before 2010 will continue to receive these benefits and must also declare their volunteer work.

Please note: a person who is no longer in receipt of benefits under the Wajong and falls under the Participation Act may receive a maximum of €95 a month and €764 a year in volunteer’s allowance.

Tip 7: Older and Partially Disabled Unemployed Workers Income Scheme Act

The Older and Partially Disabled Unemployed Workers Income Scheme Act (Wet inkomensvoorziening oudere en gedeeltelijk arbeidsongeschikte werkloze werknemers, IOAW) provides an income for older, unemployed workers. A worker who was at least 50 years old when they became unemployed may be eligible to receive benefits under the IOAW when they no longer receive benefits under the WW. The Older and Partially Disabled Former Self-Employed Persons Income Scheme Act (Wet inkomensvoorziening oudere en gedeeltelijk arbeidsongeschikte gewezen zelfstandigen, IOAZ) is aimed at older workers who have stopped working on a self-employed basis. IOAW and IOAZ benefit claimants fall under the same social assistance benefits (bijstandsuitkering) regime. This means they receive less volunteer’s allowance, must meet the job-search requirement, and may have to perform limited, unpaid social work (tegenprestatie).

Who can help?

  • The UWV (Employee Insurance Agency) is responsible for administering employee insurance schemes such as the WW, WIA, WAO, WAZ, Work and Care Act (Wet arbeid en zorg, Wazo), and the Sickness Benefits Act (Ziektewet, ZW). They provide these services as an autonomous administrative authority commissioned by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment.
  • Your contact person at the benefits agency.