With school and college work-experience schemes now moving beyond the traditional European Union countries into the lands once hidden behind the Iron Curtain, the need for teachers to be on the ball about the health and safety and insurance issues involved is more important than ever.
In three years of running the European Work Experience Project, Toni Griffiths says she has not - "thank goodness" - had to deal with any disasters which would have involved insurance companies. But she knows there is no cause for complacency. As a result, she and Lyn Romain, director of Romain Research Training and Development, have brought out a 30-page Teacher's Guide to Insurance and Work Experience.
The guide provides a "good practice" check-list, including arranging a preparation visit early and being ready to discuss employers' insurance during the visit; finding out exactly what is required by the local education authority or school governing body; and ensuring insurance cover from the moment the student leaves home to the moment he or she returns. The guide also gives translations of important terms into five European languages, and suggested forms and letters to be sent to partnering schools and employers abroad.
It has been produced in collaboration with the Centre for Education and Industry at the University of Warwick, where Ms Griffiths is a research fellow. Production was supported by the Department for Education and Employment and Commercial Union Assurance.
Ms Griffiths, who flew to Budapest last week to discuss extending European work schemes into Hungary, said: "Insurance will certainly be something I'll be discussing. In Eastern and Central Europe you are working with insurance arrangements that might be a bit different from what we are used to here. "
Students taking part in the European Work Experience project, who are generally aged 16 to 19, have been involved in a huge range of activities. They have been to Bordeaux to help the municipality translate and edit its information pack; looked after children in a Barcelona nursery school; received training at Porsche in Germany; and worked for BP in Greece.
But even in the European Union, Ms Griffiths said, requirements and automatic insurance coverage for students on work experience vary from country to country, and in Germany even among the different LAnder. In the UK, students on work experience are deemed to be employees, and they will normally be covered by employer liability insurance. In other European states, they are not regarded as employees, and need to be covered by public liability insurance - which is rarely compulsory. In Italy, journeys to and from the workplace are not covered by workplace insurance; in most other EU countries they are. In Portugal, government departments generally have no insurance, and claims are met through social security.
Ms Griffiths said: "We always recommend that students possess public liability insurance when they go abroad on work experience, and some local education authorities insist upon it. But many schools have had difficulty in establishing the insurance situation. The fear is that if the school doesn't do enough to find out about what cover is in place, then if anything did go wrong and the student was badly injured because of neglect on the part of the company, or if the student damaged the company's property, then there could be blame this end."
Teacher's Guide to Employment and Work Experience Insurance Pounds 10, including pp, from Rachel Lovelock, Centre for Education and Industry International Division, University of Warwick (London Office), 68 Upper Richmond Road, London SW15 2RP. Cheques should be made payable to the University of Warwick.