Millions of people in the UK volunteer annually and help both local and national charities deliver their fantastic, important services. Also, at least 25% of companies offer volunteering opportunities to their staff according to a recent study from NCVO.

According to the same study, peoples motivations for volunteering are very noble. People wish to help, to support a cause and organisation they feel close to. In order to fully focus on the work at hand, making a difference and getting that amazing sensation of ‘helper’s high’, it is important for a volunteer to know they are doing their work in a safe environment and with all liabilities covered.

At whatCharity, we interviewed Alan Kafoor, an insurance specialist from Norris & Fisher Insurance Brokers to help all volunteers, whether they volunteer on their own behalf or as part of a company, to know what to expect in terms of safety when signing up for volunteer tasks and to make the most of their volunteering experience.

What kind of health and safety plan does a charity need in terms of volunteers?

Health and safety legislation applies to all places of work. The Health & Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974 requires every employer with five or more employees to have a written statement of their general policy with respect to the health and safety at work of their employees. Volunteers are nowadays seen as employees and the same level of training, information and protection must be given to both volunteers and employees.

Employers with less than five employees are exempt from the requirements of a written policy.  It is the duty of every employee to take reasonable care for their own safety and that of other persons who may be affected by their acts or omissions.

It is a requirement that every employer makes a suitable and sufficient assessment of the exposures and risks to the health and safety of employees and other persons they may come into contact with.

volunteering insurance

Where can a volunteer find out what kind of liabilities a charity has, as there are so many sizes and different kinds of charities?

A charity will have liabilities both to the employees and volunteers who work for the charity and also to members of the public.  These liabilities can be insured – either under Public Liability or Employers’ Liability.  If a volunteer is a trustee or officer of a charity then he or she will wish to consider Trustees’ Indemnity insurance.  This protects the individual against claims for financial loss to third parties which arise as a result of a breach of trust or a breach of duty.

What insurances should each charity have and how can charities inform volunteers about them?

Employers’ Liability insurance is a compulsory form of insurance where there are any employees or, in most instances, volunteers. In addition, the charity would be well advised to have Public Liability cover.  Other forms of insurance are available depending upon need – cover for contents, loss of income in the event of a claim for buildings or contents, money and legal expenses amongst others.  It is recommended that the charity should seek the assistance of an insurance broker – particularly one that specialises in charity insurance.

Can you give us some examples of specific types of volunteering positions that require certain safety plans and insurance to support secure volunteering?

A volunteer should read and understand the risk assessments prepared by their organisation.  For example, if the charity requires a volunteer to lift a wheelchair in and out of a vehicle they must consider the weight and size of the item.  They should provide manual handling training – explaining that the knee must be bent to reduce back stress and consider whether the task should be undertaken by two volunteers rather than one.

volunteering safety

Does it matter what size and kind of organisation the person is volunteering with in terms of liabilities (e.g. a small charity or unregistered charity)?

The size of the charity and the extent of its liabilities should not influence a person in deciding whether to volunteer.  However, it would be good practice to research an organisation before they commit.  They could ask about the type of insurance that is in place and consider the level and type of expected activities to help them come to a decision.

Do personal insurances cover accidents or incidents when volunteering?

A personal household insurance policy will not normally cover volunteering activities because the responsibility for insurance rests with the charity.  However, if a volunteer is to drive their own car for charitable activities – under a Good Neighbour scheme, for example – then their own motor policy will provide the cover and it is important that the volunteer should notify their insurer in advance.

volunteering safety

If one is volunteering as a company volunteer, who is liable for the safety of the volunteer and providing insurance?

If a company allows their employees to volunteer for a charity during working hours, any injury suffered by the employee would be the responsibility of the charity and they must hold liability cover for that risk.

Is there anything else you wish to say to the public regarding volunteering and safety?

We would encourage everyone to volunteer for charitable work. There should really be no concern and the charity should be perfectly happy to explain the nature of insurance that they hold.  Volunteers offer their own time in good faith and they are cherished and highly valued!

If you’re a charity who wishes to learn more about whether your charity is sufficiently insured, read our interview with Alan Kafoor that focuses on what charities need to know about insurance for volunteers.

alan kafoor, norris and fisherNorris & Fisher Insurance Brokers specialise in insurance for charities and would be happy to answer any queries from both charities and volunteers – whether the charity is insured with them or not.  Please either telephone 02380 269009 or email  Please mention ‘WhatCharity’ when you make contact. 

charity volunteer insurance