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Volunteers Need ‘Worker’ Definition


Thursday, 4th October 2012 at 10:15 am
Staff Reporter
Volunteers should be included in the definition of ‘worker’ so that they have access to workers compensation, according to a new discussion paper published by the Australian Law Review Commission (ALRC).


Thursday, 4th October 2012
at 10:15 am
Staff Reporter


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Volunteers Need ‘Worker’ Definition
Thursday, 4th October 2012 at 10:15 am

A new discussion paper says that volunteers should be included in the definition of 'worker'. Photo Volunteering Qld. 

Volunteers should be included in the definition of ‘worker’ so that they have access to workers compensation, according to a new discussion paper published by the Australian Law Review Commission (ALRC).

The discussion paper was published for the ALRC’s inquiry Grey Areas: Age Barriers to Work in Commonwealth Laws – an investigation into legal barriers to older persons participating in the workforce and other productive work.

The ALRC says that the inquiry was initiated as part of the Federal Government response to population ageing.

It says that it has been asked to consider Commonwealth legislation and related legal frameworks that either directly, or indirectly, impose limitations or barriers that could discourage older persons from participating, or continuing to participate, in the workforce or other productive work.

The discussion paper raises a number of issues relating to volunteers, including:

  • The inconsistent coverage of volunteers under workers’ compensation. The ALRC proposes that Safe Work Australia consider the issue.
  • A significant number of mature age people participate in voluntary work. However, there is no consistent coverage of volunteers under workers’ compensation schemes. Volunteers in some jurisdictions are eligible, either because they are deemed to be workers under the relevant legislation, or the legislation specifically provides compensation for certain categories of volunteers.
  • Personal accident and public liability insurance is generally taken out by organisations that have volunteers. The ALRC has heard that age limitations and age-related premiums on insurance can restrict volunteering opportunities for mature age people.

The ALRC is now inviting individuals and organisations to make submissions in response to the 36 proposals and 15 questions in the discussion paper to assist the ALRC develop recommendations for reform.

Part-time Commissioner for the inquiry and Age Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Ryan said, “This discussion paper provides the public with an important opportunity to shape proposed reforms aimed at improving the financial and personal wellbeing of older Australians”.

“I hope all organisations and individuals committed to these aims will read the paper and send us their views.”

The Discussion Paper may be downloaded free of charge from the ALRC website.  



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