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Safety, Insurance and Pensions


It is important to become aware of the health hazards of the particular country where you will be. The chances of having a road traffic accident, for example, might be much higher than contracting malaria. Other factors, such as political instability or the chance of natural disaster, should also be taken into account. The "Vacation Disaster Preparation Safety Guide" by Codee Ross provides a wide range of information that might be useful.  

 Anyone travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic would also find the "Loveholidays" website useful. It provides information about what is happening in various countries and also provides links to other useful websties. 

Health and Travel 

Anyone volunteering to work abroad needs to seek advice on insurance about health and travel insurance.

Advice on health and immunisations is available from your local general practice. InterHealth in London provides a comprehensive service, including health care for people intending to work abroad. Further information is available through The Tropical Health Education Trust

For travel, it is important first to find the advice of the UK Government, which can be found at Foreign Travel Advice. Whichever travel insurance company is selected, it is important to be very clear on the detail of what is and what is not covered. The GoCompare website provides some useful guidance particularly in relation to COVID-19. 


If in the course of volunteering someone expects to carry out professional duties, then they need to seek the advice of their professional body as to whether they need to be registered with an equivalent professional body whilst in the country. 

They also need to seek the advice of the professional insurance company to assure themselves that they will be adequately covered whilst away. 

The organisation with which someone will be working should also be able to provide some guidance on this too. 



Anyone wishing to spend time volunteering abroad would be advised to understand their position in relation to any impact this may have on their pension. Immediately below are sources of current guidance. The section on the Government's Response to the Crisp Report provides some background information.

General guidance : This can be obtained from the Department of Work and Pensions 

Health Partnership Projects : Anyone who is volunteering through a project funded through the Health Partnership Scheme can remain a contributory member of the NHS Pensions Scheme whilst away, provided certain criteria are met. 

Background Information : The arrangements above are a result of consideration of some of the issues raised in the Crip Report and to which the goverment responded in “Global Health Partnerships: The UK Contribution to Health in Developing Counties - The Government Response”.

An extract from this relating to pensions is set out below.

Extract from “Global Health Partnerships : The UK Contribution to Health in Developing Counties - The Government Response” 15.3.2008


A major concern is the protection of continuity of pension contributions while the volunteer is absent overseas. Some of these are already addressed by the NHS pension regulations which allow for two options to preserve pension continuity: either short-term unpaid leave with employer and employee contributions continuing to be paid, or resignation but continued membership of the pension scheme under a Direction under the 1967 Act provided that the volunteer intends to return to the NHS.15 These provide flexibility to enable pension continuity for NHS trust employees, but staff working in primary healthcare with the status of independent contractors (like GPs) must consider the impact on their pensions if they volunteer.

For trusts to agree periods of unpaid leave they must be willing both to pay the employer pension contribution based on 14% of the salary before departure, and hold the job open for a period of up to two and a half years. There is no evidence to suggest that many trusts are unwilling to allow unpaid leave for short periods. However, anecdotal feedback suggests that, in general, this is challenging for longer periods due to the cost and recruitment difficulties of covering the post during the absence (‘backfilling’), and because it reduces flexibility of staff deployment in the present climate of workforce number limits. We recognise that, in general, longer periods of attachment (typically one to two years) for staff working on capacity building are most effective and we will ensure that the Framework encourages this approach. We will encourage NHS organisations and others to participate more in global health issues by working with them to develop communication and other strategies that emphasis the links between this global contribution and corporate social responsibility.

We have agreed to pilot over three years the provision of financial support to assist with covering the pension contributions of public sector employees who volunteer in developing countries. This initiative is supported jointly by DFID , DH, DCSF and the Cabinet Office and forms part of a major push to provide opportunities for the UK public to get more personally engaged in volunteering and overseas development. The total fund will be £13 million and will be available to support volunteers who take up overseas assignments of 7 to 24 months starting between 1 April 2008 and 31 March 2011. The fund will be sufficient to meet the full pension contributions (employer and employee) for up to twice as many volunteers from the UK public service (currently serving members of the NHS or any other UK public service pension scheme) who take up a placement with any British Volunteer Agencies Liaison Group sending agency (currently VSO , Progressio, Skillshare, Students Partnership Worldwide and International Service). We will evaluate the success of this initiative at the end of the pilot before deciding on how to take things forward after this period.

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