Are Volunteers Covered Under Workers Compensation or Liability Policy?
Volunteers are an incredible asset to countless organizations and businesses, from schools and non-profits to eldercare centers and hospitals. According to the latest study by the Corporation for National and Community Service, about 77.34 million people volunteered through an organization last year. The cost-savings of using volunteers are substantial, adding up to an estimated value of $24.20 per volunteer hour, a recent study by Independent Sector found.
Did you know, though, that many businesses overlook an important question about working with volunteers?
Who pays the medical bills if a volunteer gets hurt?
Injuries to volunteers might not happen every day, but they do happen, especially in higher-risk workplaces like nursing homes, eldercare centers, and healthcare centers or in areas that involve activities like disaster relief, dining services, or running errands. Many business owners assume volunteers are covered under workers’ compensation or general liability insurance. Yet for the majority, that’s not the case.
How can you figure out if your volunteers are, in fact, protected? What steps can you take to protect them in the event of an accident or injury?
Don’t assume you have coverage under your workers compensation for volunteers.
When volunteers get hurt, owners and operators tend to think workers’ compensation insurance will pay for the medical expenses. The reality, however, is that since volunteers are not paid employees, they’re typically not covered under workers’ comp in most states or by most insurers.
Some companies add a voluntary compensation endorsement to their policies, without realizing that this only covers employees who are not covered by the workers compensation law, such as employees traveling overseas, domestic or farm workers, or sole proprietors or partners. Despite the misleading title, voluntary compensation endorsements do not cover volunteers.
Unfortunately, many companies don’t realize their volunteers aren’t covered until an injury occurs. And at that point, it’s too late. Don’t let that happen to you – be proactive and ask your insurance broker these workers’ comp. related questions:
- Do I have coverage under my workers compensation for volunteers?
- If they are covered, then to what extent? Where in the policy is coverage identified?
- If not, what are my options for adding coverage?
Know how your state’s workers’ comp regulations apply to volunteers.
States treat volunteers and paid employees differently, and for that reason, the workers’ compensation law for a given state and insurer policies must be reviewed carefully to determine whether a volunteer qualifies.
If a volunteer gets hurt while performing assigned tasks at your facility and needs medical attention, who will pay for the medical bills? The volunteer is not an employee, and the medical payments coverage under the general liability policy is likely not to pay.