Volunteer was not protected against discrimination

Volunteer was not protected against discrimination


Author: Kevin McCavish

The Supreme Court recently ruled that a volunteer was not protected against disability discrimination.

The Supreme Court upheld last year's decision by the Court of Appeal in the case of X v Mid-Sussex Citizens Advice Bureau that a volunteer is not covered by the European Framework Directive and therefore not entitled to legal protection against discrimination.

The case concerned a volunteer at the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) who was HIV positive. She signed a "volunteer agreement", stated to be "binding in honour only... and not a contract of employment or legally binding". When the CAB ceased asking her to volunteer she claimed to have been dismissed because of her disability.

Her appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court on various grounds but the main point was that X did not have a contract of employment and could not be said to be a worker. She was therefore not protected under domestic or European legislation as she could not be said to be in employment or occupation.


The request for a reference to the ECJ was rejected, so this decision is likely to be welcomed by those in the charity sector as the final word on this topic. However, the Supreme Court recognised that volunteers come in many different guises and it did not rule out the possibility that some volunteers may be protected against discrimination. In this regard, the Court particularly singled out "... the intern hoping to learn and impress".