10 Sep 2019
A potential change in law affecting charities, volunteers and interns
The UK Government Equalities Office has launched a consultation
to help ensure the laws on sexual harassment in the workplace are
working effectively. It proposes that the laws are extended
to protect volunteers and interns.
In brief, the change calls for,
- Employers to play an
increased role in prevention, changing the focus from employer
liability after the incident to a proactive duty before any
unlawful conduct takes place.
- Extension of the
protections of the Equality Act (not just for sexual harassment but
all the protections in Part 5 of The
Equality Act to volunteers (and interns)
- Extension of the time
limits to take a harassment, discrimination or victimisation claim
to an employment tribunal.
Volunteers and interns
The specific consultation questions asked regarding
volunteers and interns are as follows;
- Do you agree that sexual harassment should be treated the same
as other unlawful behaviours under the Equality Act, when
considering protections for volunteers and interns?
- Do you know of any interns that do not meet the statutory
criteria for workplace protections of the Equalities Act?
- Would you foresee any negative consequences to expanding the
Equalities Act's workplace protections to cover all volunteers e.g
for charity employers, volunteer-led organisations, or
- If the Equality Act's workplace protections are expanded to
cover volunteers, should all volunteers be included?
It is noted that equality law is separate to wider employment
law, and any extension of workplace Equality Act protection to
volunteers would have no impact on volunteers' wider rights under
The consultation welcomes views on how best to balance the need to
appropriately protect volunteers and maintain a thriving voluntary
The full consultation and documentation can be found here -
Taking part in the consultation
The consultation is in two parts
1. A set of online questions that are quick and easy for
individuals to respond to (https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/Workplacesexualharassment/),
2. A more technical document that invites views of the details of
the law, such as the specific questions listed above.
WCVA will be responding to the consultation using the technical
document and is keen to hear your views to present a response from
the third sector in Wales. Please submit responses to us by
If you wish to submit your own responses, the
deadline is the 2nd October 2019.
In the meantime
If you would like to take some time to reflect on whether your
organisation is currently doing its best to support its employees
and volunteers, we have the following resources available that
might help you
Equality and Diversity in Volunteering Information Sheet- http://www.wcva-ids.org.uk/wcva/1048
Employing and Managing People - Equal Opportunities: http://www.wcva-ids.org.uk/wcva/1177