Does WorkCover cover volunteers?
If a person is working as a volunteer, in many instances they will not be covered by the WorkCover system in Victoria.
There are some exceptions to this however which this page will explore further.
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Who is considered a volunteer when it comes to WorkCover?
A volunteer is a person who works for a particular organisation without being paid.
A person can be a volunteer regardless as to whether there is a formal arrangement, either in writing, or not, or an informal arrangement.
WorkCover and volunteers
Normally, if a person is injured or develops a condition or illness related to their work then in most instances, that person will be able to claim benefits under the Victorian WorkCover scheme.
This assumes that the person satisfies the relevant criteria to be entitled to WorkCover.
These benefits include the payment of medical and like expenses, weekly payments and in certain instances an impairment benefit lump sum and a common law lump sum.
When it comes to volunteers however, things are a bit different.
Unfortunately, even if a volunteer is doing the same or a very similar job to a paid employee, that volunteer is unlikely to have the same coverage under the WorkCover scheme as that paid employee.
Typically, a volunteer is not able to claim any benefits under the WorkCover scheme if they suffer an injury, condition or illness related to the volunteer work that they are doing.
There are, however, some exceptions to this.
The WorkCover legislation says that if you were volunteering, in one of the following capacities, you may be able to claim benefits under WorkCover.
These are; volunteer firefighters, members of the SES in Victoria, emergency workers, volunteers assisting police, volunteering school or student workers, members of a jury.
If the work you were doing falls into one of the above categories, you may have an entitlement to WorkCover benefits.
You’ll still need to lodge a claim and the insurer will need to go through the WorkCover claim determination process to determine whether you’re eligible to claim WorkCover benefits.
What alternatives to WorkCover are there for volunteers?
Even though you as a volunteer may not be able to claim WorkCover benefits, there may be other legal entitlements you can access.
Other insurance policy
If you suffer an injury while volunteering there may be an insurance policy in existence that you can claim under – for example, insurance held by the place you are volunteering at.
Some volunteer organisations will take out separate insurance cover to cover volunteers in the circumstances.
You can speak to the volunteer organisation about this and ask them to provide you with the contact details of the relevant insurance company.
You can then contact the insurance company and speak to them about initiating a claim. Alternatively, you can ask the volunteer organisation to do this for you.
If you are volunteering for an organisation and you were out and about in a public place when you suffered injury, there may be an insurance policy held by the relevant location and you may have a claim under public liability insurance.
Typically, this is called a public liability claim.
In order to succeed in such a claim, you would need to show in most instances that you have a significant injury (this is a term defined under the relevant law), and also that there was negligence on behalf of the volunteer organisation or a third party that contributed to your injury.
If you wish to proceed with a public liability claim as a volunteer, it is very important that you are aware that you have three years from the date of injury (or three years from when the injury became apparent to you) to proceed with the claim. This is called the statute of limitations.
Some people have insurance components attached to their superannuation accounts.
These insurance components may cover them in the form of a lump sum for total and permanent disablement and/or income protection which is regular weekly or fortnightly payments if a persons ability to work has been impacted.
If you wish to initiate a claim, the first step is to contact the super fund and find out whether you have any coverage for either TPD or income protection or both.
If you do, you should then ask them to send you the relevant claim documents required to initiate a claim.
Some people engage lawyers to assist them with their TPD and/or income protections claims.
If you were injured on the road driving to or from your volunteer work, then in this instances you may be entitled to claim TAC benefits.
You should telephone the TAC or ask a lawyer to assist you.
WorkCover will cover volunteers only in limited circumstances. In most instances, a volunteer will not be covered by the Victorian WorkCover scheme.
If the work you were doing does not fall into one of the accepted volunteer categories, you may have other entitlements you can claim aside from WorkCover.
For example, the volunteer organisation may have insurance covering their volunteer workers. Or the location where you were injured may have an insurance policy you can claim under.
In addition to this, you may satisfy the criteria to claim a lump sum for total and permanent disablement under your superannuation, or alternatively income protection.