Today the Supreme Court has decided that volunteers are not workers under discrimination legislation in the case of X v Mid Sussex CAB. The decision means that volunteers cannot claim rights as workers under the Equality Act 2010.
Whilst this decision will be welcomed by a range of charities who rely on volunteers to provide their service it does confirm the gap in protection between people who may be doing very similar work but under a different type of agreement, one a volunteer and another being paid.
How does this sit with an environment where charities are being drawn into more commercial activity and delivering contracted services for local and central government? The court rejected an argument that the employment status of volunteers should be judged against how economically valuable their work was to the organisation as being too uncertain and inconsistent with the European Employment Framework Directive. An apppeal to the European Court of Justice was refused.
So for now the law looks to be settled against volunteers being workers in England and Wales. We wait to see if a case where volunteers are more commercially engaged in the organisation and the charity has greater expectations of them might change the position.