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Volunteers beyond the scope of discrimination law

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The Court of Appeal has held earlier this year in X v Mid Sussex Citizens Advice Bureau1 that a volunteer worker was not protected from acts of discrimination under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. The appellant voluntary advisor (X) had been accepted to work for the respondent advice bureau. X volunteered under a written volunteer agreement that was expressed as 'binding in honour only' and undertook a nine-month training period, following which she carried out a wide range of advice work duties for the bureau's clients. After frequently failing to attend work and changing her working days X was asked to cease attending as a volunteer and she submitted a claim for disability discrimination. X claimed that the post was a stepping-stone to employment and was therefore an arrangement to determine to whom an employer should offer employment within the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 Pt II s.4(1), and subsequently it was unlawful to discriminate against a disabled person. It was further argued that the voluntary post was a form of vocational training and X had been denied access to it in breach of the European Equal Treaty Framework Directive 2000/78, art.3(1)(c). The Court found that X was not covered by the 1995 Act, nor did the Directive cover her. It was decided that the volunteering arrangement clearly did not constitute 'employment' within the meaning of section 68 of the Act. The purpose of the arrangement had been to secure advisors for the bureau's clients, not to provide a pool from which full-time employees might be offered employment within section 4(1)(a). Finally it was held the volunteering arrangement fell outside the scope of the Directive as X was not in an 'occupation' within the meaning of art.2 of the Directive. The Court felt it was inconceivable that the draftsman of the Directive would not have dealt specifically with the position of volunteers if the intention had been to include them. It should be noted that although the 1995 Act has now been repealed and replaced by the Equality Act 2010 the definitions that were considered in this case are substantively the same. Therefore the findings of the Court in this case should still continue to apply equally under the new law. • For additional information please contact: Alexandra Dean of Gepp & Sons. The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.