(The Humanitarian Social Network)
I originally posted this over at the INSSA website: www.ingossa.org but I thought I would share it here also. This may strike you as an American centric, big development contractor subject at first, but let it sink in a little, and you will see an application for you as an individual AID worker regardless of nationality.
Insurance is critically important to protecting the organization, and more importantly for the protection of NGO’s staff (yes… us). INSSA will soon have an entire Group around the many aspects, types, coverage’s, limits and importance of Insurance and INSSA members will soon be qualified for discounted insurance as a benefit to membership. However I wanted to post a little bit of info on a particular form of insurance here now to wet our appetites.
Defense Base Act (DBA) insurance sounds menacing to many NGO’s and the words “Defense Base” alone certainly turn off some types of NGOs, however for those organizations who take money from U.S. Donors it is an extremely important and beneficial form of insurance to have.
While it is complex, and frankly weird, it is also unique and if your projects funding come from USAID or other federal US sources/donors in the form of a Contract it is mandatory. The mandatory nature of this insurance gets into a grey area very quickly when applied to Cooperative Agreements and is rarely available under Grants however apparently there are a couple out there. For Cooperative Agreements and Grants a lot depends on the language of the document and where/who issues/authored it (on the donor side), I strongly recommend you consult a DBA specialist for detailed advice, and then goto the Department of Labor directly for a second opinion.
Here are two simple facts about DBA for the sake of information:
1. It’s an “Exclusive Remedy” - DBA provides no-fault coverage and is an exclusive remedy to injured workers. Injured workers and the survivors of workers killed on the job are entitled to benefits for employment-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths regardless of fault and are not permitted to sue their employers or the federal government for any types of damages caused by employment-related incidents.
You can see this particular insurance provides an amazing protection to the employer. Unfortunately for us employees, there is no language that requires the employer to provide a specific level of security management, protection, or safety/security strategy. DBA covers all nationalities (local and expat staff). It is very important to note that only US organizations are protected by the “Exclusive Remedy”, in other words, if you have a sub-contractor or partner on a contract where you are the prime, they are required to have DBA, however if they are not a US company, their employees can sue them in the companies home country. All other benefits of the DBA remain the same.
2. An example of a tragic loophole I have some experience with (learned the hard way) is that if you as the employee on a project covered by DBA are single (i.e. not married or have children) and you die or are killed, there is no pay out to your relatives or unmarried partner (although I would be interested in hearing the legal status of domestic partners and or civil partnerships, as the laws differ by country and state). Unlike in most insurance you don’t have an option to appoint a beneficiary and there is no function for the benefits to be paid out to any other family members (ie surviving parents, siblings etc..).
Attached is a form I highly recommend every NGO employee be given and talk to their employer about whether they are working in a project with DBA or not.
The subject of Insurance should be exceedingly important to every AID worker, and they should not rest until they get a straight detailed answer from their employer on the details of the coverage they have. Trust me your family will be grateful when you’re dead, and you will be grateful if you’re forewarned and make adjustments if you were to survive but be critically injured. We all work in tough places, and even the rare AID worker working on a paradise beach is susceptible to debilitating sickness or a simple tragic car accident so educate yourself!
Educate yourself on terms like War Risk, and the effects that War and Terrorism exclusions have on your insurance (any type of insurance). Your organizations normal life insurance and workers compensation benefit for all employees will not pay out if you die in a listed War Exclusion country (it’s a long list) so ask them which policy covers you in that scenario, or if they have a War Risk rider on either of those insurance policies.
Finally, to all the Director of Security out there, get involved in whatever department manages the insurance policies, there are a number of them that you should be managing, or at the very least giving input and advice on.
This is a great topic and one that I think gets lost in the bureaucratic shuffle for a lot of reasons...including that everyone thinks it's someone else's responsibility. I've seen this discussion bump from the HR people to senior management back to the international emergency response side, then over to in-house counsel, then back over to HR. Often you have relatively junior or inexperienced staff who make an assumption that their organization will "take care of them" should anything tragic occur -- but that isn't always the case. Thank you for calling attention to this and to your critical message that every aid worker needs to know what's out there, what's at stake, and what protections that they may or may not have.