One of the major differences that distinguish many not for profit organisations from commercial operations are volunteers.  In fact many organisations could not exist without the support of its volunteers.

An ABS Survey in 2006 revealed the following:

  • 34% of the adult population (5.2 million people), volunteer.
  • Slightly more women (36%) than men (32%) volunteer.
  • 44% of those aged 35-44 yrs volunteer, the highest participation level of any age group.

What is a Volunteer?

Volunteering Australia defines volunteering as:

  • “an activity which takes place through not for profit organisations or projects and is undertaken:
    •  to be of benefit to the community and the volunteer;
    • of the volunteer’s own free will and without coercion;
    • for no financial payment; and
    • in designated volunteer positions only.”

 Ansvar define a volunteer as “any person who is legally entitled to be engaged by you as a voluntary worker and who is carrying out voluntary work for the direct benefit of your organisation…” 

Public liability and Volunteers

Generally speaking, public liability policies cover other people (third parties) for acts or omissions of an insured organisation.  It is important to note, that while volunteers are engaged by an organisation, they may not beconsidered ‘third parties’ and therefore a public liability policy may not respond if the volunteer is injured unless there is a clear negligence on the part of the organisation.

Where a volunteer is engaged on behalf of an organisation, their actions are likely to be covered by the organisations public liability insurance policy if a claimable incident occurs to another party.  Please note that you should review the full terms and conditions of your policy checking for exclusions and limitations.

Workers Compensation and Volunteers

Workers compensation insurance generally does not cover volunteers for injuries that occur during the course of volunteering.  Please note that workers compensation is legislated on a state by state basis, so you should check with your workers compensation insurer as to what legislation applies to your situation.

Obligations to Volunteers

Organisational responsibilities to a volunteer are often the same as to employees.  Most employment related laws such as Equal Opportunity and Occupational Health & Safety apply equally to volunteers as to employees.  Therefore you should expect to have a safe and harassment free volunteering environment.  WorkCover legislation generally requires notification of any serious injuries also to volunteers so please ensure that you consult the relevant authorities should an incident occur.

Covering Volunteers

Given workers compensation and public liability do not cover volunteers for their personal injuries, it’s good to know that organisations have the ability to take out a Volunteers Personal Accident insurance policy.  Volunteer policies are generally not fault based, so as long as the injury occurs during volunteering, then cover applies (within terms and conditions).

Personal Accident policies can cover a range of things including:

  1. Capital benefits:  Lumps sum cover for major permanent losses such as death, loss of eye sight, loss of limbs, loss of sight or hearing.
  2. Temporary Total Disablement (Weekly benefits):  Cover for loss of weekly income for periods (typically between 52-104 weeks) where a volunteer cannot return to their usual occupation.
  3. Non-Medicare medical expenses:  Out of pocket expenses incurred where there is no Medicare benefit available and the expenses are not recoverable from any other source.  This does not cover Medicare gaps.
  4. Domestic Assistance:  The cost of domestic help where disablement necessitating expenditure for the employment of domestic help is certified by a medical practitioner that such help is essential owing to the nature of the bodily injury.

You should check your policy schedule carefully to see what you are covered for including age limits.  Also remember to check your product disclosure statement for any relevant exclusion.  For example construction and demolition work is often excluded under volunteer policies as is travel to and from the voluntary work site. 

How much cover is enough?

Every organisation is different and therefore the covers that you will need will vary.  While many insurers will try to sell a ‘standard’ package, you can vary each of the covers under the policy to suit the requirements of your organisation.  When setting cover levels, you should consider the type of volunteers you have.  For example if your volunteers are high income professionals, you may wish to look at higher weekly benefit limits.  On the other hand retired volunteers may not require weekly benefits at all, but higher domestic assistance limits.


Volunteers inject passion and life into many organisations.  Volunteers generally are not covered under any organisations insurance for injury unless a special policy is taken out.  Both the organisation and volunteer should be aware of their respective obligations and covers in the event an injury occurs.

If you have any questions about your particular situation, please feel free to Contact Us.