Friday, 14 December 2012

Church Volunteers and Employees 2

The Supreme Court in X v Mid Sussex Citizens Advice Bureau [2012] UKSC 59 has agreed with the earlier Court of Appeal decision [2011] EWCA Civ 28 .and the Employment Appeal Tribunal decision [2009] UKEAT 0220_08_3010

All Courts have rejected the suggestion that "Volunteers" of a Charity were covered by the Anti-Discrimination provisions of the Equality Act 2010 (The case itself dealt with the provisions of EU Anti-Discrimination Directive but its findings would have affected the application of the 2010 Act)

The case involved a volunteer at a Citizens Advice Bureau and whether she was protected under the (now repealed) Disability Discrimination Act however it was common ground that the decision would involve all volunteers for any voluntary organisation and would apply to all types of Discrimination covered by the 2010 Act. What the Courts have decided is that the Directive, and hence the Act, only applies to employees and not volunteers.

This decision is of particular significance to all religious organisations because of the large number of volunteers that are always involved with churches, synagogues, mosques, gurdwaras temples etc. If the Equality Act had applied to volunteers then these organisations would have been faced with a potential bureaucratic nightmare as they would have to ensure that every volunteer post was filled in accordance with equality guidelines with the possibility of facing Tribunal claims from disaffected parishioners who felt that they had been overlooked for appointment to a voluntary post. The fact that the law does not apply to volunteers lifts this potential threat from all voluntary organisations and allows them to get on with their primary role

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