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Volunteer insurance cover put to the test

2 min read

In 2010 the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated that there were 6.1 million Australians working as volunteers across Australia. This significant and generous contribution of volunteers’ time, makes them one of the not-for-profit (NFP) sector’s most valuable assets and one worth protecting.

Given this heavy reliance on volunteers, organisations have an obligation to look after the health, safety and wellbeing of their volunteers. It’s vital that decision makers and people in management and leadership positions within these organisations know that they owe a duty of care to voluntary workers.

Cover for injured volunteers

Volunteers may not be covered by workers’ compensation laws so organisations need to ensure the right cover is taken out for volunteers should they injure themselves whilst performing volunteer duties.

In the event a volunteer is injured, the organisation should have a Volunteers Personal Accident Insurance Policy in place to ensure volunteers are compensated for their loss of income whilst they recover, or if the injury is serious enough to provide a lump sum payment.

Without such protection, organisations risk their own reputation by not adequately protecting their volunteers.

Cover for the volunteer’s liability

In the event a volunteer negligently causes personal injury or property damage to third parties while performing their volunteering duties, they must be covered under the organisation’s Public Liability insurance. Not all NFPs take out Public Liability insurance and for those that do, it would be prudent to check that your policy extends to include volunteers
as ‘Insureds’.

Simple preventative measures

In order to mitigate the risk of personal liability, NFP organisations should be rigorous about making sure volunteers who perform specialist tasks have the appropriate trade background or qualification and that they are physically fit for their allocated tasks, this can make all the difference to avoid injury to both the volunteer and third parties.

It’s equally important to ensure volunteers are adequately trained and that they are aware of procedures and protocols relevant to the organisation, as well as the roles and responsibilities they will be given. If the appropriate training can’t be provided, NFPs need to consider the potential risks they could face as a result of unqualified or untrained people representing their organisation. If the risk is considered too high, NFPs may have to make the difficult decision to refrain from taking on volunteers. This could potentially create a challenging situation, particularly when volunteer time is so valuable and many organisations wouldn’t exist without their support.

Regardless of the insurance provider, NFPs need to make sure their cover looks after their most important assets; their people. This includes volunteers as well as directors, staff, visitors and clients.

In the event of an organisation or volunteer negligently causing personal injury or property damage to third parties, volunteers should be covered under the organisation’s public liability insurance.

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