Springhouse Solicitors

Volunteers not protected by discrimination law

The Court of Appeal has decided that a (CAB) volunteer was not covered by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. This applies equally to the scope of the Equality Act 2010, which has replaced it.

The judgment has brought relief to charities and other voluntary sector bodies who were concerned about the extra burden that enhanced rights for volunteers would bring.

However, even though the volunteer in this case was not covered, some unpaid workers may be entitled to protection under UK law, if they have a legally-binding contract “personally to do work”, or if they are in a work experience or vocational training placement.

Charities and volunteers alike should check any documentation that describe the arrangements between them.

The EHRC has suggested that an appeal may be brought to the Supreme Court, commenting: “Given that many employees begin their working life as volunteers, which provides them with valuable experience which they can use as a step up to paid employment, it seems unfair that certain groups of people can legally be denied this experience.”