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Volunteers not covered by discrimination law

Posted on December 14, 2012

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Volunteers not covered by Discrimination Law

If you are a charity or take on unpaid interns then the Supreme Court’s decision that an unpaid volunteer was not covered by discrimination law will offer some comfort. (X v Mid Sussex Citizens Advice Bureau).

X was a CAB volunteer, who signed a volunteer agreement which stated that it was ‘binding in honour only and not a contract of employment or legally binding’. She often failed to turn up and the CAB asked her to leave. She brought a disability discrimination claim. As volunteer, she was outside the scope of the protection under the Disability Discrimination Act and the Equal Treatment Directive. ‘Occupation’ did not cover voluntary activity and only covers employment and self-employment. The decision also covers the Equality Act 2010.

What this decision does not address is when an intern / volunteer argues that they are in reality a worker or employee for the purposes of the National Minimum Wage and employment legislation. See our earlier bulletin at: Unpaid Interns. If your organisation takes on unpaid interns or volunteers, it is worth considering these questions carefully.

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