Publication date: 3 January 2018
A volunteer is not an employee. But what if accidents occur during voluntary work? Is the organisation for which the volunteer performs services liable or not?
A recent case dealt with a volunteer who, as a member of a group that performed odd jobs in a parish, had to install lights on a church roof. During the installation he fell off the roof which caused paraplegia, among other things. Does the parish have to pay for the damage?
Based on the statutory duty of care, an employer is liable in the event of work accidents. The employer has to ensure a safe and healthy working environment. He has to take measures to make sure that his employees are not injured during their activities. In the event of work accidents, the employer is in principle responsible. The employer will have to pay for the damage, unless the employee has acted with intent or deliberately reckless.
This protection also applies to persons who are in a position similar to employees. This is the case when persons perform activities outside employment but regarding the duty of their safety are partially dependent on those they perform activities for, for instance self-employed persons (zzp’ers). It needs to be looked at whether the ‘employer’ has an influence on the working conditions and the security risks involved.
Does this duty of care also apply to volunteers? The case concerned dealt with a volunteer that was a member of a group performing odd jobs in a parish. In addition to volunteers, the parish also employed ordinary employees. In principle, the parish could have asked one of the employees to install the lighting. The pastor or chaplain might not be the first persons that will be asked to climb a roof, but a skilful sexton might have managed to do the job. Therefore, the volunteer is in a position similar to an employee and is dependent on the safety measures taken by the parish. Now that the volunteer is being involved in accident he has the right to the same protection as an ordinary employee. That means, the ‘employer’ is liable for damage the volunteer suffers.
Organisations have a duty of care to all persons that work for their benefit. Therefore, you have an obligation to ensure that your volunteers can work safely and you have to take the measures needed to do so. In addition, when taking out insurance take into account that the necessary cover is provided for any damage that might occur to the volunteers. After all, you wouldn’t want your volunteers to become the victims of their unpaid efforts for your organisation. Should you nevertheless be confronted with liability for breach of the duty of care, our specialists have extensive experience and will gladly assist you. Please contact:
Reinier W.L. Russell, LL.M. contributed the revised chapter on the legal framework of charity law in the Netherlands to the practical handbook Charity Law. A Global Guide from Practical Law, published by Thomson Reuters. This handbook provides a high level practical overview of the global charity law sector, covering 20 key jurisdictions.read on
In the last issue of Stare Decisis, Priscilla de Leede of Russell Advocaten, Mary Edenfield of Mateer Harbert and Ed Belam of Marriott Harrison discuss the most important topics to include in your employment contracts regarding the termination of the contract. There are some important differences to take into account!read on
A sick employee may not be dismissed. However, an employee who knows of imminent dismissal, cannot avoid this by reporting sick. But when does the employee know that this is the case? This question was central to the court case concerning the dismissal of a CFO of Volksbank.read on
If your employee reports sick, this may raise many difficult questions. What are your reintegration obligations during the sick leave period? What are you allowed to record about your sick employee with regard to the privacy legislation? We answered these and other questions during a webinar. Watch the video!read on
Is there already a works council in your company? Are you a member of your company’s works council? What are the advantages of having a works council in your company? Jan Dop and Priscilla C.X. de Leede explain the role of the works council and give an overview of the works council’s most important rights.read on