Are you planning on volunteering? Has the NGO or not-for-profit you are working with requested you get travel insurance? Do you know what type of cover you need?
Don't worry, keep reading this guide to find more about travel insurance for volunteers and other useful volunteer tips. Or, if you're ready to compare policies, enter your travel details in the form below.
Who covers overseas volunteer work?
Many insurers will cover you for volunteer work overseas. However, there will be conditions. The most common condition being your are not permitted to engage in any manual labour. Below are the conditions for a number of the travel insurance brands in the finder.com.au panel and how they treat overseas volunteer work and travel insurance.
You may be able to get cover. However, if your claim arises directly or indirectly from, or is in any way connected with, you engaging in manual work in conjunction with any profession, business or trade during your journey you will not be covered. Manual work includes:
The use of plant, machinery, or power tools
Work in the building trades, security, professional sports, emergency services, extracting, manufacturing, forestry, alcohol or entertainment industries
If you're being sent overseas by a not-for-profit organisation, the company may have travel insurance that covers you. If you are heading off on a voluntary working holiday or a private trip, you will need to take out travel insurance for yourself.
Travel insurance for volunteers is similar to regular travel insurance, in that it covers the three main areas of risk:
Medical and hospital
Theft or loss of belongings
Trip cancellations or delays
Because its more than just holiday, with your participation in activities that have an impact upon others, you may also wish to consider additional cover such as personal accident, public liability and, if you are providing a service or giving advice to others, professional indemnity insurance.
Not-for-profit organisations who send volunteers overseas need to have travel insurance for them as a matter of course. They have an obligation to ensure the people who are helping them are covered against every eventuality.
As well as a moral obligation to protect their volunteers, having insurance should also be part of an organisation’s normal risk management procedures. After all, if a volunteer were to do something on behalf of the organisation that led to a lawsuit, the organisation could be facing a crippling claim that could lead to its demise.
As mentioned previously, travel insurance for volunteers should cover the three main areas of risk. Whether it is domestic or international travel insurance, it should protect against loss of deposits and additional expenses associated with flight cancellations and delays. It should also cover lost, stolen or damaged baggage and personal items.
As with most insurance policies, all areas of cover are contingent upon the insured being a participant in an approved activity at the time of any incident. In the case of a volunteer, that would mean performing tasks associated with their voluntary work.
Volunteer and not-for profit organisations need a range of different types of insurance, just as for-profit organisations do. The fact that they have workers representing them and for whom they are responsible dictates this, regardless of whether they are being paid by the organisation or not.
As well as travel insurance for those workers who travel domestically or internationally on their behalf, a not-for-profit organisation may also need insurances such as the following:
Public liability insurance to protect against claims of third party injury or property damage
Product liability Insurance to provide cover if they sell food or products as part of their fundraising efforts
Directors and officers liability Insurance to protect volunteer committee and board members from being sued for negligence
Property insurance to cover contents and to protect property owned by the organisation against storm, fire and theft
Fidelity insurance to protect against misappropriation of funds by employees or committee members
Personal accident insurance to cover volunteers for expenses incurred following accidental injury, disability or death while carrying out work on the organisation’s behalf
Cyber liability insurance to cover losses suffered and legal liability to others arising from system breaches
As well as taking out travel insurance or ensuring that your not-for-profit organisation has taken it out on your behalf, volunteers should also take the following precautions before heading overseas. Due to the political instability and poverty-stricken nature of many countries requiring volunteer assistance, you could find yourself in danger or in trouble with the authorities unless you take certain steps beforehand. These could include:
Researching the organisation you intend to volunteer with to ensure it is reputable and that the work you will be doing will be of value
Studying the culture and learning the language, laws and customs of the country you plan to visit
Obtaining the right paperwork, including visas, work permits and other documentation
Reading and taking note of travel warnings issued by the Australian Government Smartraveller website
Registering your travel plans with Smartraveller and notifying friends and relatives of your intended movements
Claire didn't forget about travel insurance
Several years ago, Claire Standish signed up to do volunteer teaching in India through a not-for-profit organisation. She paid nearly $4,000 to ensure she would be looked after whilst in India, but when Claire arrived there she found that there was no volunteer work for her to do.
Nothing had been organised by the subsidiary organisation on the ground and there were no students to teach and no school to teach at. Claire returned to Australia out of pocket and thoroughly disillusioned and made a formal complaint to the not-for-profit organisation she had signed up with.
Fortunately, the organisation made some attempt at restitution, sending her on a new volunteer trip free of charge and paying half of her airfares. The moral here though is to thoroughly research the organisation you plan to volunteer through and to have adequate travel insurance to cover trip cancellations and additional expenses.
Hopefully this article has shown that, while volunteering can be a rewarding experience, it needs to be undertaken with due care and planning and with adequate protection in place in the form of travel insurance. And that applies regardless of whether you’re an individual or an organisation with a duty of care to look after your volunteers.
Richard Laycock is Finder's insurance editor, and has spent the last five years wrangling insurance product disclosure statements. His musings about insurance have appeared on Money Mag, Yahoo Finance, and Travel Weekly. When he’s not helping people make sense of insurance fine print, he is testing the quality of cocktails in his newfound home of New York. Richard studied Media at Macquarie University and The Missouri School of Journalism and has a Tier 1 Certification in General Advice for Life Insurance.
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