Legislation and industry codes relating to the use of volunteers
The following legislative requirements have relevance when recruiting volunteers for an event.
In most states and territories of Australia certain insurances are compulsory when organising events in the public domain, namely public liability and workers compensation insurance (for paid staff).
Appropriate insurance will ensure that the event organisation and the people working within that organisation are protected from financial liability in the event of damage to people or property.
It is highly recommended that professional advice about the insurance required for an event be sought in the planning stage. The type and amount of cover will depend on the nature of the event and the requirements of government, landowners and venue where the event will be held.
The insurances related to volunteer involvement include:
Public liability insurance
Public liability insurance is required by a number of government agencies and venues and is usually a condition of approval to hold an event. In most cases $20 million is the amount of cover required by the appropriate agency or agencies listed as ‘interested parties’ on the certificate issued.
Public liability insurance will cover legal liability to compensate third parties for personal injury or property damage caused by an occurrence in connection with the event. However, do not assume that volunteer workers are automatically covered. e.g. In Queensland there is a Civil Liability Act 2003 that has a volunteer protection clause included.
You should also ensure any contractors you use have appropriate insurance to cover their activities at the event. It is a good idea to ask them for a copy of their Certificate of Currency. You should also check with the landowner/venue manager about the insurance they have and the insurance you are required to have.
Personal Accident insurance (volunteer insurance)
Personal accident insurance (or as it is sometimes known - Volunteer Insurance) generally covers members, volunteers, officials or participants for any out-of-pocket expenses following accidental injury, disability or death while carrying out their work on behalf of an event. It normally covers loss of income if the person injured was unable to work through sickness or injury.
Motor vehicle insurance
This insurance covers vehicles owned and driven by volunteers or paid staff for loss or damage to the vehicle or third party property. It is important to have a motor vehicle policy if volunteers or paid staff are using their own motor vehicle or the event organisation’s vehicles in the course of their work requirements.
Professional indemnity insurance
This insurance protects professional event organisers against claims of potential negligence, misrepresentation, violation of good faith and fair dealing and inaccurate advice, loss of records or documents, dishonest acts etc by volunteers and paid staff.
Property and contents Insurance
This insurance covers damage or theft of the organisation’s property or contents.
The above insurances are only a sample of the insurances available and organisers should ensure that each and every event is analysed thoroughly to determine specific requirements.
Always allow enough time for the application process, ensure that the event organisation is fully covered. Examine what is and what is not covered in the insurance document. Keep records of damage or injuries for 6 years to address requirements under limitation legislation.
Make it a requirement that suppliers carry their own cover and do not accept the transfer of supplier liability. Hold harmless or indemnity agreements (otherwise known as contractual liability) are agreements whereby you have assumed the liability of another person or business under contract. These agreements are commonly found in venue hire contracts, contracts with councils and government departments. The affect of signing one of these agreements is that you would become responsible for claims which you would not normally be liable for under common law.
The protection of personal information is a priority. All reasonable precautions to safe-guard personal information from misuse, unauthorised access, modification or disclosure must be taken. When personal information is no longer required or out-of-date, it must be deleted or securely destroyed. An individual has the right to complain about a breech of privacy by lodging their concern or complaint.
Occupational Health and Safety (OHS)
Occupational Health and Safety guidelines are aimed at ensuring the safety and health of workers in a workplace. Most states do not make specific reference to volunteers in their legislation, however this does not exempt the organisation or the volunteer from their Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) obligations.
Generally, volunteers are considered under the category of ‘other persons’ to whom the organisation owes a duty of care. An employer’s duty of care to ‘other persons’ is not described as specifically, but is just as important as if the person was a paid employee.
Organisations involving volunteers must take all reasonable steps to ensure that non-employees are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the conduct of the organisation’s activities.
Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)
Equal employment Opportunity (EEO) legislation aims to make discrimination, victimisation, sexual harassment or harassment in employment and volunteer roles unlawful. EEO and Anti-discrimination legislation applies equally to all, both paid workers and volunteers.
Discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favourably than another would be in the same circumstances because of a characteristic that is not relevant to their capacity to do the job. An event organiser has legal obligations to a volunteer to act in a non-discriminatory manner by advertising the volunteer position correctly, selecting volunteers fairly, providing training equally, dismissing fairly and providing all terms and conditions of volunteer roles in an equal manner. Volunteers have a responsibility, too, to ensure that their actions are not discriminatory to others.
Sexual harassment is any form of unwelcome or uninvited sexual attention that might be humiliating, intimidating or offensive.
Criminal Record and Working with Children checks
Criminal record checks should be conducted as part of the screening process to select volunteers in situations where the volunteer may be required to work with people in vulnerable circumstances such as children, disabled people or the elderly.
Some event organisers may be required to conduct these checks on volunteers to meet the conditions required of them by key stakeholders or to satisfy conditions of funding organisations.
These checks are also referred to as police checks, national name checks or national police certificates.
Once the organisation has requested a criminal record check for a volunteer applicant, their name will be checked against all criminal records in Australia, although in some states it is possible to request that the check be made for criminal records in the home state only.
Working with children checks are required in some states for volunteers who work with children. These checks look for relevant offences that indicate unsuitability for work with children and in addition to checking criminal records will review sex offenders registers and may search for adverse findings on professional disciplinary registers.
Part of your understanding legislation, rules and regulations surrounding an event, is to know your rights and responsibilities, and to know those of your volunteers.
Recruit volunteers – Solo Activity 4
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