Equality and diversityFrom the Good Practice Bank
Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 merged over 116 pieces of legislation, providing a legal framework with the aim of protecting the rights of the individual and advancing equality of opportunity.
Does the Equality Act apply to volunteers?
Most of the queries Volunteering England receives about the Equality Act ask whether or not it protects volunteers in the same way that it does employees.
The short answer is no, it doesn't. This was reconfirmed in January 2011 when the Court of Appeal ruled that volunteers without contracts are not covered by anti-discrimination legislation for workers. If the volunteer is a voluntary worker with a contract they may be protected, but even then there are differences.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) does suggest that "when you are taking up a volunteering opportunity with an organisation, this counts as if they are providing you with a service", but this has yet to be tested in the courts.
This does not mean that it is okay to discriminate against volunteers. The articles below will help you to think about good practice in involving volunteers from an equality and diversity perspective.
More information on the Equality Act and volunteers
- EHRC Guidance | Your rights as a volunteer
- EHRC Guidance | Voluntary and community sector organisations
- Charity Commission | Equality Act guidance for charities
- Institute for Volunteering Research Monitoring Volunteers: A guide to collecting and using data (168.3Kb)
- Template and guidance: Equalities monitoring form (46.5Kb)
- Template: Equality and diversity statement (25.6Kb)
- Example: Cambridge and District CAB monitoring form (37.8Kb)
- Eaxmple: Mind in Croydon equal opportunities policy (126.7Kb)
Volunteering England and the organisations that contribute example documents to the Good Practice Bank accept no responsibility for how they are used. They are presented as examples of good practice, but it is every volunteer-involving organisation's responsibility to ensure that their volunteers are safe, and that policies and procedures meet legal requirements.