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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Don’t be fined accidentally – get insured!

This opinion piece is over 10 years old
Central Insurance

IT’S a little known fact that there are only two pieces of insurance required by law. One of them, which more or less everyone understands, is car insurance. Anyone who currently owns, or has owned, a car knows that by law you can’t get out there in your vehicle without the appropriate insurance.

The other lesser-known policy, and perhaps more salient to TFN readers, is employers’ liability insurance. This is a form of cover that ensures organisations have a minimum level of protection against any claims made by staff who have had an accident, been injured or taken ill as a result of their work.

Now, that might sound like it isn’t necessarily more relevant to a third sector audience, as many charities aren’t employers under certain understandings of the term. A lot of charities don’t employ”many people, if anyone at all.

The reality, however, is that this is important to the third sector, just as it is to the private and public sectors too, but few people realise it.

As of 30 September 2013, 23,000 charities registered with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator. Between them, they employ an estimated 138,000 people, around 48% of which are part-time. These numbers, however, are eclipsed by the vast army of volunteers in the sector. Official estimates put the number of voluntary workers across the UK at 13.2 million and one million in Scotland alone.

It’s not an unfair assumption to make that this means there are a lot more volunteers than there are fully paid employees among the UK’s charities.

In many cases, charities believe these workers do not qualify as employees and, therefore, do not need to be covered by an employers’ liability policy. In fact, that is not necessarily true.

As voluntary workers are still carrying out some form of work for your organisation, they are owed a duty of care under health and safety laws.

In a number of instances, in my experience, charities have believed that volunteers are covered by public liability policies, insurance that covers members of the public against claims made by anyone that has suffered injury or damage to property in connection with the business.

However, this is not the case as volunteers are generally excluded because of their position within an organisation. Remember that most definitions of employee include “authorised voluntary workers”, or voluntary helpers while working under the insured’s supervision and control, and this is reflected in policy wordings.

It’s also worth remembering that under the terms of the law, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) can fine you up to £2,500 for any day you are without suitable insurance. Equally, if one of your volunteers were to have an accident or take ill while working for a charity, you could be liable for any compensation claims.
To avoid doubt, get in touch with your insurance broker to find out if you and your workforce, whether fully-paid or voluntary, are suitably covered by your existing employers’ liability policy. If you don’t yet have one, it’s worth exploring where to get the best form of cover to avoid any nasty surprises further down the line.