Creating a fairer Britain
31 October 2012
The Equality and Human Rights Commission is today (Wednesday) intervening in a case before the UK’s Supreme Court to argue that volunteers are given protection against discrimination.
The case involves X who gave advice on welfare law as a Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) volunteer. She claims she was told to leave her role, which included writing submissions, when she made the Bureau aware of her HIV status.
UK law does not provide volunteers with protection from discrimination – for example being victimised or being asked to leave purely on the grounds of disability, age, religion or sexual orientation.
As an independent third party expert on human rights and equality law, the Commission is intervening to offer guidance to the Supreme Court on how the European Directive* for Equal Treatment in Employment and Occupation, should be interpreted to provide protection for volunteers.
To date, domestic courts which have heard the case, have decided that the Directive does not protect volunteers from discrimination
John Wadham, General Counsel at the Equality and Human Rights Commission said:
“As the government seeks to increase volunteering in the UK, both to support its ‘Big Society” initiative and as a way of supporting economic recovery by helping people find work, it is only fair that in return, some volunteers should receive protection against unjustified discrimination.
“This is especially important for many disabled or older people for whom volunteering may play an essential part in helping them live independently and be included in their local community.”
For further information please contact the Commission’s media office on 020 3117 0255, out of hours 07767 272 818.
Notes to Editors
*Framework Directive for Equal Treatment in Employment and Occupation – Directive (2000/78) http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32000L0078:en:HTML
The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006. It took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission. It is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain. It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights. The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation. It encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act and is recognised by the UN as an ‘A status’ National Human Rights Institution. It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.