Insurance for voluntary workers in schools

Insurance for voluntary workers in schools, legal issues bulletin 29, LIB29. This advice was last reviewed in March 2014.

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Voluntary workers provide invaluable assistance to schools. It is therefore important that, when arranging for the participation of voluntary workers, schools be aware of the department's policy requirements, particularly those relating to insurance.

Insurance cover for voluntary workers

Generally, approved voluntary workers who are injured, suffer damage or loss of property or who cause injury to or damage to others during their work, will be covered under the department's insurance arrangements. If a voluntary worker is injured at a school or while assisting in a school activity and incurs expenses related to the injury, the department will consider meeting those expenses. Information concerning insurance arrangements and claim procedures is attached in Appendix 1.

In relation to school-run canteens, principals should note that it is no longer necessary to obtain insurance cover for voluntary workers and public liability. These liabilities will now be covered by the department's insurance provisions. Any existing insurance arrangements with private insurance providers for this coverage should be cancelled and a refund sought for any remaining period under the policy.

Consideration for schools when engaging these workers

Child Protection

The majority of voluntary workers are parents, caregivers or members of the local community. Principals can approve the attendance by voluntary workers at their sites subject to the voluntary workers meeting the requirements of the department's employment guidelines. Principals should refer to the Working with Children Check Procedures – Principals (31 March 2010).

Supervision of volunteers’ children

Voluntary workers may assist in many activities including remedial reading programs, school-run canteens (as opposed to P&C run canteens), working bees, excursions and special events. When doing this work, volunteers may seek to bring pre-school children with them. Principals should ensure that in such cases, appropriate supervision is provided for any pre-school children so that the department's duty of care for the safety of students, staff and other visitors to the workplace is met.

What insurance applies to voluntary workers?

Many local school P&C associations arrange voluntary workers to assist with P&C organised activities, e.g. fetes, working bees, quiz nights and other P&C fundraising activities. On these occasions, it is the responsibility of the P&C to arrange any necessary insurance cover for the voluntary workers. Local P&Cs can obtain appropriate insurance cover by arranging their own insurance or by taking advantage of the insurance cover provided by the Federation of Parents and Citizens Association of NSW. Prior to allowing any P&C activity to occur on school sites, principals should ensure that the P&C has appropriate insurance cover by requesting a copy of the relevant certificate of currency.

Voluntary workers referred by external agencies

Various government and non-government agencies refer voluntary workers to schools as part of employment programs, e.g. "Work for the Dole" or "Return to Work". The NSW Department of Corrective Services also refers voluntary workers under the Community Service Orders Scheme - DET memoranda Community Service Order Scheme 90/007 dated 30 January 1990 and 90/133 dated 23 July 1990 refer and are attached at Appendix 2 (PDF 951.36KB) and Appendix 3 (PDF 929.77KB) for information. Though both are old, they remain current.

Principals should not accept referrals of voluntary workers from agencies or sign any agreements about their placement without first confirming with the agencies that appropriate insurance arrangements are provided for the workers. If in doubt as to whether to accept a voluntary worker, principals can obtain advice from the Insurance, Risk & Claims Management unit or Legal Services . Insurance, Risk & Claims Management unit personnel can advise on whether various classes of volunteers are covered by the NSW Treasury Managed Fund.

What other issues do schools need to be aware of when considering the referral of voluntary workers from external agencies?

The responsibility for accepting voluntary workers in schools rests with principals. Before agreeing to any placement, principals must ensure that voluntary workers have the capacity to undertake any work to be allocated. Any assessment of the person's capacity to undertake the work will include ensuring their personal circumstances, such as health, age, skills and experience, are taken into account.

Principals will need to ensure that all relevant WH & S issues are addressed when accepting voluntary workers. Under no circumstances should voluntary workers undertake any work of a hazardous nature. Principals should keep a record of all voluntary worker placements. Accident reports should be made, consistent with the policy Reporting School Accidents, if an accident occurs to such a volunteer.

Legal Services can be contacted regarding any general legal issues arising from the placement of voluntary workers. Any enquiries regarding insurance issues and claims should be directed to the Insurance, Risk & Claims Management unit.

Appendix 1

Claim procedures for voluntary workers engaged directly by schools

These insurance and claims procedures apply only to voluntary workers who are covered by the department's insurance arrangements. In the event that a voluntary worker is injured:

  • appropriate first aid or associated treatment should be administered
  • a record of any accident, injury or loss must be completed
  • if costs are incurred relating to the injury, the voluntary worker must first claim from Medicare or private health fund
  • if the voluntary worker wishes to claim the gap or non-recoverable expenses the voluntary worker must advise the principal in writing and provide evidence of the gap/non-recoverable amount being claimed.
  • the principal should gather the following documentation:
  • copy of the record made regarding the accident, injury or loss
  • letter of claim from voluntary worker
  • witness statements, if available and
  • any supporting documentation.

In accordance with NSW Treasury Managed Fund requirements, principals are responsible for assessing and, where appropriate, paying claims which are less than $300.

For claims greater than $300, the completed documentation should be forwarded to the Insurance, Risk & Claims Management unit – Miscellaneous Claims, NSW Department of Education, Shared Service Centre, Locked Bag 5068 PARRAMATTA NSW 2124.

The Insurance, Risk & Claims Management unit will review the claim and, if approved, refer the documentation to the NSW Treasury Managed Fund, for payment.

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