Supreme Court Rules That Volunteers do not Have Protection From Discrimination in Law

In the recent judgment of X v Mid Sussex Citizens Advice Bureau, the Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that volunteers do not have protection from discrimination under employment law.  Mrs X was unpaid by the CAB and did not have a Contract of Employment, rather she was engaged under a Volunteer Agreement.

Mrs X had a chronic health condition and claimed to have been forced out of her role.  As a result she wanted to bring a claim for disability discrimination in an Employment Tribunal.  It was ruled by the Tribunal that Mrs X was unable to bring a claim due to the fact that the legislation did not apply to volunteers.

Mrs X claimed that her activities constituted an ‘occupation’ under European anti-discrimination law and that consequently ‘the protection against discrimination on the grounds of disability intended to be afforded by EU law should therefore extend to her’.  The Supreme Court did not accept her argument that her volunteering constituted an occupation, ruling that European law is clear and that protection from discrimination does not extend to volunteers.

While this this judgment does not represent a carte blanche exclusion from employment law for volunteers, it is big news for charities and organisations alike as it means that volunteers will not be governed by employment law in certain circumstances.  Volunteers are only likely to fall within discrimination legislation where their work constitutes employment or vocational training.

Before dismissing volunteers or employees, or for clarification on the distinction between the two it is advisable to seek legal advice.  For advice on this or any other area of employment law then please contact Forbes Solicitors’ experienced Employment Law team or call 01254 222399.

This entry was posted in Employment Law.

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