New Equality Bill clause aims to protect volunteers from discrimination

Charities could be taken to employment tribunals if amendment becomes law

A new clause has been proposed in the Equality Bill that would allow volunteers to take their organisations to employment tribunals over discrimination claims.

Tim Boswell, Conservative MP for Daventry, has put forward an amendment to the legislation proposing that volunteers should be treated in exactly the same way as employees in cases where they claim to have been discriminated against.

The Equality Bill, which is currently going through Parliament, reduces nine existing pieces of legislation into a single act that aims to make the law on discrimination more accessible. Boswell's new clause states that, with the exception of matters related to pay, "all rights of employees under this act are deemed to extend to persons who work as volunteers without remuneration; and all duties of employees and their employers to avoid discrimination are deemed to extend to volunteers working without remuneration".

Boswell told Third Sector that, if adopted, this would be the first time volunteers' rights were guaranteed by law. He said organisations should not attempt to avoid discrimination laws by relying on volunteers to provide services, and he hoped the new clause would attract debate over the coming weeks.

Andrew Harrop, head of public policy at Age Concern and Help the Aged, said: "We often hear from older people who have been unfairly excluded from volunteering opportunities, so we are very pleased that Tim Boswell is suggesting the Equality Bill should address this injustice."

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