A legal requirement? Strange as it may sound in some cases allotment and gardening associations may find themselves regarded in law as employers of voluntary labour. Health and Safety Executives require insurance against claims by injured workers when you are acting as if you are an employer, even if the work is voluntary and unpaid.
How likely are you to be involved? In most cases, not at all. Where a plot holder decides to tidy up a plot, trim a hedge or overhanging branch, or mow a path and so on as stated in the tenancy agreement that this is his business. Of course general health and safety rules always apply if dangerous conditions are allowed on the field, such as narrow, overgrown and uneven paths, but that is another matter.
When might you be regarded as an employer? Obviously if you are paying for a job to be done - check that the firms or workman have their own insurance against accident and injury. Check that bee-keepers, tree surgeons and contractors will be self-insured as a matter of course, and run their own risks. For volunteers you may become involved if you give instructions to someone and they injure themselves carrying out the task. An individual acting as Steward or Secretary organising voluntary work like clearing the boundary or removing rusty tin is a possible example. If it is your responsibility for controlling the work this might make you an "employer"; especially (as an example) if a rent-reduction or other benefit is offered to the volunteer for such tasks as mowing the main path. Associations or other gardening groups sometimes organise these things, and the individual in charge should probably take out employers' liability insurance.
How did this state of affairs arise? National charities that run shops and workplaces use volunteer labour in effect as employees. So it was decided to require insurance against any harm that might come to these volunteers while engaged in their tasks. Unfortunately, perhaps no-one suggested exceptions for little groups like allotments.
How can you take out this insurance? Please sign in to the members area on our website where you can complete an online form to apply for this and other additional insurance cover. Employers liability cover costs just £20 per year and covers your the whole association (you must be members of SWCAA to benefit from these extras)
Note: this information is offered by way of general guidance only and must not be taken as legal advice or direction. For legal advice contact a solicitor.