Just as some services are thinking of resuming some volunteer activities some Volunteer Managers in NSW have expressed concern that their volunteers will not be adequately covered by insurance.
With most insurance policies only covering injury and illness a pandemic insurance gap has appeared. This means if a volunteer contracts COVID-19 during the course of their duties they could be personally liable for any out-of-pocket medical expenses.
The need to self-isolate for 14 days might then also interfere with a volunteer’s paid work commitments, potentially leaving them without income for a period of time.
While it is unlikely that volunteers will become infected if organisations are adhering to the social distancing and hand washing policies required by health orders, this may be a significant deterrent to volunteers thinking about returning to their roles. It is also a concern of organisations who do not want to expose their volunteers to any risk yet wish to resume volunteer activity.
According to The Centre for Social Research and Methods two out of three volunteers have ceased unpaid activities in the period between February and April this year.
The Victorian Government has enacted a COVID-19 Worker Support Payment which gives eligible Victorian workers forced to self-isolate, including volunteers, financial support in the form of a one-off $1500 payment. NSW has no such measures in place although advocacy groups like Volunteering Australia are engaging with the government and the Insurance Council of Australia to try and rectify the issue.
In the meantime some volunteers have been asked to sign documents acknowledging their lack of cover if infected with COVID-19.