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Insurance and volunteers

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Insuring volunteers

Organisations need to be aware that insurance contracts require ‘the utmost good faith’ from the purchaser of the insurance. This means that organisations must provide all relevant information when looking for insurance such as the numbers of volunteers working with the organisation, what activities they do etc.

When arranging insurance, organisations can choose to either use the services of an insurance broker or buy directly from an insurance provider. A broker will charge for their services but may be able to help source a number of quotes from different insurance companies and provide advice on what cover is needed by the organisation.

Alternatively, organisations can contact insurance providers directly to arrange a quote for their insurance. Direct insurance providers may offer a number of ways to tailor insurance to the organisations needs and are less likely to charge fees for putting the insurance in place.

Regardless of how an organisation chooses to buy insurance, the type of cover that is needed should always be carefully considered. Zurich Insurance have produced a guide which offers 10 questions to consider (pdf, 1.7MB) when buying insurance for not-for-profit organisations.

Organisations should make sure volunteers have accurate and up-to-date information about insurance so that they understand what activities are covered whilst they are volunteering. It can be useful to make sure that volunteers know that all insurance policies are limited, and that insurance policies can change over time, so they should always check if they are unsure if an activity is covered.

Types of insurance

All groups and organisations that involve volunteers should think about what types of insurance they need.

Insurers and policies are all different so we can only give general advice. Organisations should get specialist advice if they want more detail.

Here are the main types of insurance that volunteer-involving groups and organisations may need.

Employers’ liability insurance

Employers in Great Britain have a duty under the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 and Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance Regulations) 1998 to have employers’ liability insurance for no less than £5m. This insurance must cover liability for accidents, disease or injury to an employee due to negligence or breach of health and safety law by the employer.

Employees, workers, apprentices and some trainees must be insured under this cover, but there is no duty to insure volunteers. If volunteers are found to be working under a contract they would be seen by law as employees and workers.

Although this legislation doesn’t force organisations to insure volunteers, it is advisable for organisations to do this, in case negligence cases are brought by volunteers.

Organisations should make sure that volunteers are covered by their employers’ liability insurance or under similar terms in their public liability policy. This means that organisations should specifically tell their insurer that they work with volunteers. You can find out more about employers’ liability from NCVO’s Trusted Supplier Zurich.

The above regulations (the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 and Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance Regulations) 1998) require employers to do certain things such as display the certificate of insurance.

Public liability insurance

This insurance cover is not a legal requirement, but any organisation that owns or controls premises, holds public events or works with the public should have it. It is required by many funders and the conditions of registering with regulating bodies, such as with Ofsted for childcare premises. Organisations may have to have this insurance under contracts to provide services, eg for a local authority.

In general, public liability insurance protects the organisation for claims by third parties, including service users and members of the public, for death, illness, loss, injury, or accident caused by the negligence of the organisation. It can be extended to protect the organisation against claims from volunteers arising from injury or sickness as a result of negligence by the organisation. You can find out more about public liability from NCVO’s Trusted Supplier Zurich.

It can also protect for loss or damage to property caused through the negligence of someone acting for the organisation, which may include volunteers. Policies vary so organisations should check that their policy adequately covers volunteers.

Personal accident insurance

Personal accident insurance covers injuries, accidents or deaths that happen if the organisation has not been negligent. Some organisations may want to provide this cover or extend an existing policy as a courtesy towards volunteers. You can find out more about personal accident insurance from NCVO’s Trusted Supplier Zurich.

Professional indemnity insurance

Organisations providing information, advice or other professional services should have professional indemnity insurance and make sure that volunteers involved in these activities are covered. This type of insurance covers organisations for claims arising from injury, loss or damage resulting from advice or other services.

Insurance for volunteer drivers

Read our guidance on insurance cover for volunteer drivers.

Further information

NCVO’s Trusted Supplier Zurich Insurance has created a PDF guide to help make buying insurance simple, helping you to consider:

  • if your organisation needs public liability insurance
  • what cover you need to think about if you have employees
  • insurance for your vehicles
  • protection for your trustees.

Find out more about the different insurance covers available from Zurich insurance.

Last reviewed: 19 May 2022

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 19 May 2022

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