Can You Make a Workers' Compensation Claim When Volunteering in a Company?

Posted on: 16 November 2016


Volunteers are a great asset to many companies and organizations in Australia. A person is referred to as a volunteer if they work for a business or profit making organization without receiving any payment or reward. However, they may be given money to cater for expenses such as transport, food, and housing. A volunteer is usually not considered an employee of the company. For this reason, the question of whether one is entitled to workers' compensation benefits if they incur an accident in their line of work can be confusing. If you are working for such an organization in Australia, it is essential to understand your rights and obligations as far as a workers' compensation claim is concerned.

What is workers' compensation? Workers compensation is a form of insurance cover that offers benefits to workers who suffer injury in the course of employment. The workers are required to relinquish their rights to suing the employer for negligence in exchange for the benefits covered in the insurance policy. The Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act requires every person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to protect their workers and offer these benefits to the extent that the workers suffer injury at work. PCBU in this case may refer to companies, organizations, partnerships, and any other form of business that employs workers.

Are volunteers entitled to compensation? The Australian WHS Act recognizes volunteers as workers. The organization that you work for should protect your physical and mental health as it would other workers who are under employment. For this reason, if your organization is covered under the WHS Act, it should ensure your safety and provide compensation for any injuries that are incurred in the course of the volunteer work.  The type and extent of compensation will be based on various factors such as the type of environment that you work in, the work you carry out, and the nature of risks that you are usually exposed to.

What's the role of the organization in your safety? The organization that you work for has a duty to ensure that it minimizes your risk of suffering injury during the course of your volunteer work. As such, it is required to undertake the following:

  • Provide adequate training in your area of work, for instance, train you on how to operate equipment safely.
  • Provide the necessary safety gear to protect you from injury during your work.
  • Put in place procedure and avenues where you can report hazards and accidents encountered at work so that they can be addressed.

As a worker, you are required to observe the safety regulations, wear the protective equipment, and practice safety when going about your work. If your injuries result from negligence on your part, you may be denied compensation. For more information, talk to a professional like Westralian Insurance.