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Volunteers not protected by discrimination law, tribunal rules

Volunteers not protected by discrimination law, tribunal rules
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Volunteers not protected by discrimination law, tribunal rules

Governance | Tania Mason | 4 Nov 2009

Volunteers are not protected by the Disability Discrimination Act because they are not covered by the term “occupation”, the Employment Appeal Tribunal has ruled.

In a case that will have implications for all charities that deploy volunteers, the Tribunal last week handed down a decision regarding the employment status of volunteers in the case of X v Mid Sussex Citizens Advice Bureau, concerning a volunteer who brought a claim for disability discrimination against the CAB.

The case has been running since 2007 and was heard in the Court of Appeal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal in 2009.

The volunteer’s claim for discrimination was rejected by the Tribunal at first instance on the basis that volunteers are not protected by the existing disability discrimination legislation.

The volunteer appealed this decision alleging that she can be protected because her volunteering falls within the definition of “occupation” under European equal-treatment legislation. She argued that the Disability Discrimination Act should be interpreted to include occupation and to thereby provide protection for volunteers. It was further suggested that such an interpretive approach should be extended to the other strands of discrimination.

But the Employment Appeal Tribunal found in favour of the CAB in respect of both arguments, holding that volunteers are not covered by the term "occupation" in the European equal-treatment legislation.

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