The Volunteers Protection Act 2001 (SA) provides some protection for volunteers doing community work from being sued for damage, loss or injury they may have caused to others during their volunteer work.
What protection is provided by the Volunteers Protection Act 2001?
Subject to some exceptions (see below) a volunteer doing 'community work' for a 'community organisation' is not liable for any damage, loss or injury they cause due to an act or omission done or made in good faith and without recklessness [Volunteers Protection Act 2001 (SA) s 4].
If someone experiences damage, loss or injury because of a volunteer doing community work, they can sue the organisation the volunteer works for. They can only sue the volunteer if it is clear the Volunteers Protection Act 2001 (SA) does not protect the volunteer, or if they have first sued the organisation, which then disputes it is liable.
Who is a volunteer?
A volunteer is someone who is not paid for the work they do.
Being reimbursed for expenses incurred carrying out voluntary work is not 'payment' [Volunteers Protection Regulations 2004 (SA) 4(1)(a)]. A monetary gift given in recognition of a volunteer's work (an honorarium) is also not payment, but the gift must be a 'true honorarium' - for example, it must not be relied on or expected by the volunteer as a source of income [Reg 4(2)].
A person carrying out work under the order of a court or as a condition of a bond is not regarded as a volunteer [Volunteers Protection Act 2001 (SA) s 3].
Are all volunteers in all organisations covered?
Only volunteers doing 'community work' for 'community organisations' are covered by the Act.
What is community work?
Community work is work done for any of the following purposes:
[Volunteers Protection Act 2001 (SA) s 3]
These purposes are similar to those for which organisations can be incorporated under the Associations Incorporation Act 1985 (SA). However, not all organisations incorporated under that Act will have purposes that are included as 'community work' under the Volunteers Protection Act 2001. Just because an organisation is incorporated under the Associations Incorporation Act 1985 and considers itself to be involved in community work, its volunteers are not necessarily covered by the Volunteers Protection Act 2001 (SA).
What is a community organisation?
To be a 'community organisation' under the Volunteers Protection Act 2001 (SA), the organisation must:
What exceptions are there to the protection from liability?
The protection from being sued provided by the Volunteers Protection Act 2001 (SA) does not cover:
Some implications for community organisations with volunteers
Organisations should make the nature and scope of activities volunteers are authorised to engage in clear to volunteers. This will involve documentation and thorough induction and training.
Organisations should identify potential risks involved in the work of volunteers and take measures to minimise the risk of damage, loss or injury to others.
Community organisations that have volunteer workers should check their public liability insurance policies, or write to their insurer, to see whether they are covered for loss or injury caused by the negligence of their volunteer workers.