Just a few weeks after a falling out between love rival zoo keepers saw an employment tribunal and criminal case (see our blog here), London Zoo has found itself in the press again for its creative use of employment law.
The zoo advertised a vacancy for a conservation post supporting the Pangolin Specialist Group. The applicant should have a graduate or postgraduate degree in biology, conservation or similar, and will help monitor a major conservation action plan aimed at the “scaly anteaters” under threat of extinction. Unfortunately for the successful candidate, they will receive only £5 a day for lunch and a Travelcard.
The duties for the six-month role would be highly likely to place the volunteer within the definition of “worker” for the purposes of section 54 of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998. However, “voluntary workers” are excluded from the legislation under section 44 of that act. Broadly, “voluntary workers” are defined as those engaged to work for charities, voluntary organisations and associated bodies who do not receive payment or significant benefits in kind for their work. Since London Zoo is operated by the Zoological Society ofLondon, a registered charity, they are entitled to take advantage of this exception provided certain conditions are met.
Although there is no suggestion that what ZSL is doing is breaching the law (unlike the 113 employers named and shamed by HMRC for breaches of the minimum wage recently – see our recent article), the Zoo’s advert has been criticised by the campaigning careers website Graduate Fog. Several media outlets have also picked up the advert (The Guardian, The Metro, The Evening Standard). ZSL may well feel that the whole experience has not been worth the advantages of recruiting the volunteer – but at least employment law specialists can benefit from a catchy new name for section 44 of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998, which will surely henceforth be known as “the Pangolin loophole”.