Volunteers/work experience students have no insurance cover under the Comcare arrangements for rehabilitation and compensation that apply to MOP(S) Act employees, however, they are likely to be a ‘worker’ for the purposes of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act). The WHS Act imposes duties on those responsible for managing workers and workplaces, in order to protect workers and other persons against harm to their health, safety and welfare, through the elimination or minimisation of risks arising from work. Ministerial and Parliamentary Services has a duty to provide a safe physical environment, but Senators and Members also have a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of volunteers in the workplace.
Depending on the facts and circumstances of the individual case (including the capacity of each party to influence and control the circumstances that led to the injury), where a volunteer injures himself or herself whilst working for a Senator or Member in an electorate office (or other Commonwealth property or leased property), the Commonwealth or the landlord could be liable for the injury. Legal advice should always be obtained where a volunteer is injured whilst working for a Senator or Member. Ministerial and Parliamentary Services has public liability insurance coverage for Commonwealth-funded offices that it administers, so that if any individual, including an employee, volunteer or member of the public is injured in the electorate office, a claim under this insurance policy could be made. Commonwealth public liability insurance coverage is unlikely to cover injuries to a volunteer that occur outside a Commonwealth-funded office, for example, at an event held in a public hall or park.
Any enquiries or claims in relation to liability for volunteers should be directed to the Commonwealth’s commercial insurance broker.