Am I covered by public liability insurance if I hurt myself as a volunteer?

PUBLISHED 17 Jan 2020

An employee injured at work is entitled to compensation to help offset the costs of their injuries.  Persons injured due to the fault of an occupier, business owner or other entity can make a public liability claim. But where to volunteers stand when it comes to rights for compensation?

What defines a volunteer?

A volunteer is a person who provides services for free. They may work on behalf of a charity, business, or another type of organisation. They may be given some form of reward such as recoverable costs for travel, food, or lodging, or be gifted with products, but these are not considered compensation of the employer/employee type.

Can Volunteers get workers compensation?

Volunteers are not generally considered eligible for workers compensation unless a deeming provision of the legislation applies. There are several laws that do protect volunteers and entitle them to workers compensation if stringent conditions are met, but this is rare.

How can volunteers be compensated if injured?

In many cases, an injury suffered by a volunteer might fall under a public liability claim, but more often the organisation they are volunteering with will have taken out an accident policy. This policy could provide for payment of medical expenses and limited other benefits if an injury to a volunteer occurs.

What is the Duty of Care owed to volunteers?

Any organisation being assisted by the volunteer owes their volunteers a duty, to ensure that reasonable steps are taken to prevent injury to the volunteer. If it can be proven that there was a breach of said duty, a volunteer may have an entitlement to damages.

What about specific volunteer organisations?

All volunteer organisations have a responsibility to all people who enter their premises, to care for their health and safety. The extent of the duty owed by the organisation will be dependent upon several parameters:

  • The nature of the environment the volunteers will work in
  • The type of work that is being performed
  • The general level of risk that the volunteers are exposed to

The volunteer organisation’s public liability insurer will typically cover any compensation payable as a result of a breach of duty.

What about workplace health and safety?

The legislation governing workplace health and safety legislation in Australia does recognise volunteers as workers, and covers most organisations. Volunteers’ physical and mental health should be protected in the same way as that of a registered employee.

Need more information about injuries while working as a volunteer for an organisation in Australia? Contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers today.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.