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Are You Required to Provide Workers’ Compensation for Volunteers?

Gerry Dumke
Posted on: March 21, 2018 by Gerry Dumke

The majority of businesses are well aware of the risks of an on-the-job employee injury, and have a workers’ compensation program and insurance in place to protect themselves. However, for nonprofit organizations or businesses that make use of volunteer workers, the question of what an injury means for the organization grows a bit more complicated.

According to the United States Department of Labor, a recorded 62.8 million people volunteered for an organization in 2014, and this figure is showing no signs of dropping. The benefits of using volunteers are great: Volunteer Sector found in 2016 that businesses on average save $24.14 per volunteer hour. However, injuries to volunteers—particularly common in high-risk workplaces such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities—can happen, and there have been many debates over whether businesses are still on the hook for injured non-employees.

Workers’ Compensation

Though the specific regulations depend on state, the general consensus is that workers’ compensation does not extend to cover volunteers or other workers of a similar sort (i.e. not being paid for their work). However, under Indiana state law, any form of compensation (not just monetary compensation) can be a case for the worker or volunteer to legally be considered an “employee”, so we recommend that your clients know

In the state of Indiana, there are three groups of volunteers that are covered by workers’ compensation. They are as follows:

  • Rostered Volunteers – Government units may elect to cover volunteers for medical benefits, but the unit must first create a roster of the volunteers to be covered. This provision specifically excludes volunteer firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and inmates from being rostered volunteers.
  • Volunteer Firefighters – This category includes emergency medical technicians in addition to volunteer firefighters. They are covered under the statute for medical and burial expense benefits (IC 36-8-12-10), and a volunteer fire company (VFC) is properly classified under code 7711 – Firefighters & Drivers – Volunteer.
  • All Other Volunteers – Other volunteers that do not fall under the above categories can be covered for benefits, but this is considered an optional or voluntary coverage.

Uncovered Volunteers

For volunteers that do not fall under the workers’ compensation coverage umbrella, there are other options for offering coverage. A commercial general liability (CGL) policy with an increased medical payment limit, an accident and health (A&H) policy, or a group accident/disability policy can all be used to cover the medical bills of a volunteer who was injured on the “job”. Another option is asking volunteers to sign a hold-harmless agreement stating that they recognize that the business is not responsible for injuries or accidents that are incurred in the course of their volunteering.

About Caitlin Morgan

Caitlin Morgan specializes in providing Workers’ Compensation insurance to residential care facilities, including offering a program designed for members of the Indiana Health Care Association (IHCA), HOPE, and Leading Age Indiana associations. We can assist you in reviewing an existing Workers’ Compensation plan, securing coverage, boosting safety plans and implementing RTW programs for your nursing home clients. Please contact us at 317.575.4440.

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Posted in: blog Workers Comp Workers Compensation