Volunteers

Most volunteers are not entitled to compensation if injured while volunteering.

Background

Under the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013 (the Act), a volunteer is defined as 'a person who is acting on a voluntary basis (irrespective of whether the person receives out-of-pocket expenses)'.

Under the Act, most volunteers are not treated as employees for WorkSafe purposes and therefore will not have an entitlement to compensation if injured while performing voluntary work. As a result, employers may need to consider separate insurance cover for volunteers in order to safeguard against possible legal, financial and reputational consequences.

Some government agency volunteers may have an entitlement to compensation

Exceptions under the Act mean some volunteers who assist government agencies - including Country Fire Authority (CFA) and State Emergency Services (SES) – will have an entitlement to compensation if injured while carrying out specified duties. WorkSafe administers claims by volunteers under other Acts on behalf of the Crown.

The following Acts provide that volunteers assisting government agencies are entitled to compensation if injured whilst carrying out relevant duties:

  • Victoria State Emergency Services Act 2005 - applies to voluntary registered and probationary members of the Victoria SES
  • Juries Act 2000 - applies to jurors
  • Education and Training Reform Act 2006 - applies to volunteer school workers or volunteer student workers
  • Emergency Management Act 1986 - applies to volunteer emergency workers
  • Police Assistance Compensation Act 1968 - applies to volunteers assisting police officers
  • Country Fire Authority Act 1958 - applies to casual fire fighters, including volunteer officers and members and volunteer auxiliary workers
  • Firefighters' Presumptive Rights and Fire Services Amendment Legislation (Reform) Bill 2019 - applies to volunteer firefighters able to access presumptive compensation for specified cancers contracted as a firefighter

If unsure whether a volunteer is covered by the Act, please contact your WorkSafe agent, or email WorkSafe Victoria at [email protected].

Entitlement to provisional payments

Eligible Victorian volunteers under the following Acts may also be able to access early treatment and support while they await the outcome of their mental injury claim. This support is called provisional payments.

  • Victoria State Emergency Service Act 2005 - applies to voluntary registered and probationary members of the Victoria SES
  • Juries Act 2000 - applies to jurors
  • Education and Training Reform Act 2006 - applies to volunteer school workers or volunteer student workers
  • Emergency Management Act 1986 - applies to volunteer emergency workers
  • Police Assistance Compensation Act 1968 - applies to volunteers assisting police officers

Eligible volunteers can access provisional payments for reasonable treatment and services for up to 13 weeks, even if their claim is rejected.

Eligible volunteers are entitled to provisional payments unless:

  • there is clear evidence the claimant is not an eligible Victorian volunteer
  • the volunteer's claim is a duplicate of an existing claim
  • the volunteer's claim is for a physical injury only

Further information