Liability, Insurance and Risk Management

NOTE: Liability and insurance questions are primary concerns for businesses and organizations. Each situation is particular and cannot be covered completely in this format. You should discuss these matters with a legal professional and/or your university partner to receive advice tailored to your particular circumstances.

1. Do I need particular insurance to host students? What does the university cover?

Ryerson University has a risk management guide detailing the types of insurance required for various EL placements.

In most cases, if the EL student enters into an employer-employee relationship with your business or organization, your insurance coverage should be used to cover the student.

In the case of unpaid EL placements, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities will cover the costs for Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) coverage. The university may also offer insurance for the EL student in the case of unpaid placements. The University of Guelph has developed an overview of occupational health and safety as it relates to students in unpaid work placements.

Upon request, the university may provide you with a letter confirming the student’s insurance coverage. You can view an sample WSIB coverage letter from York University’s Experience Hub by visiting Templates and Examples.

You should discuss these matters with your university partner as part of the partnership agreement negotiations.

2. Who is liable in the case of an injury to the student for different types of EL opportunities?

Your partnership agreement may include indemnification clauses related to on-placement injuries.

Your insurance should be used to cover an EL student for paid placements.

For unpaid placements, the student will be covered through the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities for WSIB coverage and/or your university partner. Many universities also cover their students under general liability insurance claims. For further information, contact your university partner.

These matters should be discussed with your university partner when negotiating the partnership agreement.

3. Who covers liability insurance when working with clients of the organization?

Coverage depends on the type of work performed and the nature of the EL program.

4. What is the nature and extent of a student’s responsibility when placed in a community organization?

You and your university partner will serve as experts to guide and mentor the EL student during their placement. The university may have an EL student code of conduct that students are bound by and have agreed upon. This may include: responsibilities to the partner organization, responsibilities to the clients or those being served, professional conduct, confidentiality and privacy provisions, and harassment and discrimination prohibitions. 

The student’s responsibilities should be clearly articulated in their employment agreement, where applicable, and in the partnership agreement.

5. Are there ways to incorporate risk management into the partnership? Is there a framework we need to be familiar with?

Risk management is an important aspect of entering into an EL partnership. You and your university partner should tailor the placement in a way that mitigates risk while not undermining the objectives of the program or partnership.

Many universities can provide you with a risk management checklist or assessment document. For example, Ryerson University has an experiential education risk management learning chart detailing the requirements for different types of EL opportunities.

You should discuss these matters with your university partner and tailor the processes to your circumstances.

6. How do I assess risk for a position or opportunity that will be available for students?

Mitigating risks associated with EL opportunities is a key objective of your university partner. Your university partner may have resources available to you. You should work with the university to identify and account for risks associated with the EL opportunity.

The risks associated with an EL opportunity will depend on the program of study, tasks and duties to be performed, and the nature of your business or organization. For example, risks will differ if a student will be placed in a lab or scientific environment where dangerous materials are present, if they will be working with members of the public, or if they will be placed in non-traditional office environments.

Common risks may include:

  • Health, safety and negligence;
  • Confidentiality breaches or misuse of proprietary information;
  • Information privacy concerns;
  • Workplace harassment or discrimination;
  • Sexual harassment or misconduct; and
  • Student misconduct or breach of duty.

Risk management is never foolproof. You should determine the level of risk that you are comfortable with.

How do you mitigate risk once it has been identified? What is expected of staff, volunteers, clients, etc.?

Your university may have a number of risk management policies in place that can be adapted to your unique circumstances. After identifying the risks associated with the EL opportunity, you should work with the university to implement policies or agreements that mitigate such risks and clarify responsibilities.

Such policies will include many of the topics in this guide, including:

  • Partnership agreements;
  • Insurance policies;
  • Student and employer codes of conduct;
  • Human rights, equity and discrimination guidelines;
  • Intellectual Property (IP), confidentiality and privacy guidelines; and,
  • Accommodation guidelines.  

When collaborating with a university, you should determine your risk tolerance and implement appropriate guidelines as well as risk mitigation policies.

Risk management is an on-going and iterative process. Maintaining open lines of communication with your university partner will help identify and address issues as they may arise.