We’re asking the government to close the pandemic insurance gap for volunteers

1 Sep 2020

Alongside Volunteering Australia, we’re calling on all Australian governments to back the volunteer workforce during COVID-19 by overcoming the pandemic insurance gap.

Two in three volunteers stopped volunteering between February and April 2020. With restrictions easing in most areas, many organisations want to restart volunteer programs and bring volunteers back to the workplace. In many cases, volunteers are essential to help meet increased demand for community services. But organisations are hesitant to bring volunteers back because of the lack of insurance cover for COVID-19 (coronavirus) related claims. Businesses aren’t prepared to restart their employee volunteer programs without an assurance on this point.

We are keen to work with Government and suggest several options that could be explored and which, if shared across different jurisdictions, will be low cost:

  • Expand existing (State-run) Workers Compensation schemes to cover volunteers for out of pocket COVID-19 related illness and expenses. Some emergency volunteers (country fire volunteers, for example) are covered so there is precedent for this approach
  • Create a Government-backed indemnity or contingent liability fund for COVID-19 payments to volunteers, subject to defined criteria (a cap of $10,000 per volunteer and excluding losses because of wilful disregard of medical directives, for example)
  • Develop a longer-term solution such as a volunteer insurance product that includes certain illnesses. If volunteering is to recover as we learn to live with COVID-19, a major effort by the volunteering sector and governments will be required, including the need to invest in the capabilities and capacity of organisations to re-engage volunteers, recruit and train new volunteers and adapt volunteer programs to the conditions of the ongoing COVID-19 environment.

You can read our full joint statement with Volunteering Australia on our Not-for-profit Law website.