Insurance coverage for volunteers

What kind of protection do I need as a volunteer?

The commitment and engagement displayed by volunteers deserves recognition and respect. But in case something happens, what kind of protection do short- or long-term voluntary workers have to offer? There are several possibilities:

If you want to volunteer at short notice (i.e. a tandem with a refugee) without working with a supporting organisation you should check if you have a private accident and liability insurance. Harm you do not intentionally cause other people usually gets covered by personal liability insurances, which you have to take out yourself. You should make sure that your personal liability insurance covers voluntary work (often, responsible tasks like managing a club are excluded from personal liability insurance!).

In general, your private insurance takes priority over other insurances. Should your private insurance deny the coverage you can draw on the insurance of your supporting organisation or assignment location.

Am I insured during “classical” voluntary work?

If you support your municipality, your community or a welfare organisation (i.e. Worker’s Welfare Organisation - AWO, Caritas, German Red Cross) for the benefit of others you are automatically insured by the statutory accident insurance. This means, you are insured if an accident happens during your voluntary work or on your way to/from your assignment location.

But, a private detour, for example to the bakery, might affect the insurance coverage. Should something happen, persons in question might have to cover the costs themselves.

Examples of a “classical” voluntary work: lay judge at court, member of the church council, volunteer at the fire brigade etc.

Am I insured as a member/volunteer in an association or club?

We recommend reviewing your club’s insurance situation, since clubs are not obliged to insure volunteers working for them.

So called “quasi-employment” activities are usually insured by the statutory accident insurance: For example if you train a volleyball team or if you assist in the preparation for an event of a support group. Here, it is irrelevant if you receive payment for your support or not.

However, it is not enough to be a member in the respective club to be insured – the club or association (or rather its board) has to appoint the person to be i.e. the trainer of the football team. To avoid gaps in the insurance coverage many associations have group insurances (accident, liability) for their activities and for the tasks of their voluntary helpers.

If the association has no insurance coverage and the private insurance does not cover the incident, you can draw on the insurance of the Free State of Thuringia. Self-organised voluntary work is covered by this insurance if at least two people work together for the benefit of others. On the other hand, a tandem with a person in need which started i.e. after a meeting at a social event is not insured. Please check if your private accident and liability insurance is applicable!

Am I insured during my voluntary year?

Participants of a federal volunteer service or a voluntary year are subject to compulsory insurance. Younger participants are covered by their family insurance and do not have to be insured on their own. This applies to the following services:

  • Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr (FSJ; engl.: voluntary social year)
  • Freiwilliges ökologisches Jahr (FÖJ; engl.: voluntary ecological year)
  • Bundesfreiwilligendienst (BFD; engl: Federal Volunteer Service)
  • Internationaler Jugendfreiwilligendienst (IJFD; engl.: International Juvenile Voluntary Service)
  • Intwicklungspolitischer Freiwilligendienst „weltwärts“
Is it possible for refugees to be insured through sports clubs?

Some of the German sports clubs approach integration work in inviting refugees to train with the clubs, to take part in competitions or the social life within the club. Since the beginning of 2015 refugees obtain insurance coverage by the largest sport insurer in Germany, ARAG. Before that, they were seen as non-members and therefore were not insured or at least the relating insurance issues were unsettled.