Too many non-profit organizations, community action coalitions, and other social groups think that all you need is a waiver and you can't be sued by volunteers and interns that get injured while helping out. Unfortunately, even the most well-written waivers can fail in court if the judge finds the document invalid. Make arrangements to cover all unpaid workers as if they were employees for these five important reasons.
Each state sets its own rules regarding the rights of both paid and unpaid interns. While almost all of the states require workers' compensation coverage for all paid workers regardless of internship status, the waters get murky surrounding unpaid volunteers and interns. Some states want you to cover them, while others allow you to waive their rights in exchange for strict limitations on how they can work for your group.
Covering everyone equally circumvents the headache of deciphering state labor laws and protects you from paying penalties due to inadequate coverage. If you do choose to only cover the workers required by local law, keep a copy of the regulations on hand so you don't accidentally assign duties to an unpaid helper that should only go to insured members of the group.
By spending the money to expand your insurance coverage, you still save a lot on legal costs. Potential legal fee savings include the following:
Increased workers' compensation coverage comes with a fixed and regular cost on top of what you already pay, while lawsuits could cost anything from hundreds to millions of dollars. Insurance is a lot easier to budget for than a financial emergency like a settlement agreement.
Afraid that your waivers are scaring away plenty of good volunteers and dedicated interns? By extending them the courtesy of free insurance while they work, you can attract a broader range of helpers and speed up the acceptance process.
There's less paperwork to do with insurance than trying to use waivers to avoid liability. One or two documents gets each new team member added to the system, and you can drop them from the policy just as quickly when they leave the program too. A separate endorsement on your existing policy allows you to leave employee protections intact while you change the members in the volunteer group.
Do you receive leads on volunteers or interns from local colleges, high schools, large businesses, or other facilities in your area? Most professional groups require their partners to carry full insurance for students or employees that spend time working in unpaid positions outside of the school or business. If you want to keep getting plenty of applications sent your way from a trusted partner, conform to their requirements and include insurance on incoming volunteers to protect everyone involved in the program.
Finally, bumping your coverage up to cover a larger group of people could cut the cost for each person by a small percentage. Most insurance companies providing workers' compensation plans offer progressive discounts as the pool of members grows larger. Talk to your insurance provider to get an accurate quote before assuming your group's budget can't cover all your unpaid helpers too.
Don't be afraid to change your current way of handling workers' compensation before there's a chance for a lawsuit. Taking the proactive approach will pay off when a small injury is covered by the insurance instead of turning into a big fiasco in the courtroom.
You keep a copy of your insurance policy in your file drawer, but do you know how to read and understand the policy? Having an insurance policy will protect you from losses, but it won't protect you from all losses. To get a better understanding of what your policy will and will not cover, read through this blog. You will learn about all different types of insurance policies and learn the terminology used in the documents that you have read. Hopefully, by the time you have read through the content here, you will know exactly where your insurance policies are lacking so you can make changes.