South East Sheffield Citizens Advice Bureau v Grayson, unreported, EAT, November 2003

Who counts as an employee?: Grayson worked for the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, but despite repeated requests, the CAB failed to make any reasonable adjustments. She brought a disability discrimination claim.

At a preliminary hearing, the CAB, which had 11 staff, argued the tribunal did not have jurisdiction because of the ‘small employer’ exemption for organisations with fewer than 15 staff. But Grayson argued the CAB’s seven volunteers and 10 directors should also be considered.

The tribunal held the directors were not employees as they received no remuneration and had no obligation to do any work. The volunteers were, because they provided advice and administrative support and were engaged under the Volunteer Agreement which, among other things, provided a minimum weekly commitment of six hours and payment of expenses. The CAB successfully appealed.

The CAB argued that the parties should intend to enter into legal relations, but neither the volunteers nor the CAB signed the agreement.

The EAT held that contracts would ordinarily be expressed in terms of unqualified obligation. Reading the agreement as a whole, it found there was no contractual obligation for the volunteers to provide any services at all, and the CAB was entitled to the small employer exemption.

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