Question: When calculating the number of hours worked by a volunteer, should lunch breaks be included?
Answer: Generally speaking in terms of good practice in volunteer management, if a volunteer shift is for more than 4 hours at a time, a 30 minute lunch break would be included and counted as volunteer time. Most organisations follow their HR policies in terms of ‘healthy breaks’ and count volunteer lunch breaks as ‘time given’ and therefore, counted.
Even with 4 hour shifts, which included a 15 minute break, I would count it in my statistics and reports for volunteer hours. Counting breaks is especially important for longer shifts (e.g. spontaneous emergency management volunteers) as most organisations require volunteers to take the necessary rest breaks for well-being aspects, as well as reporting requirements. Counting this time makes it visible and hence, important, even if not paid.
As many volunteer management systems (or rostering system) aren’t industrially focused, they are not as sophisticated in terms of clocking in and out of breaks etc. However, we can’t stress enough the importance of ensuring volunteers to take their breaks – passionate, committed, purposeful and busy people as they are. Burnout can be a significant issue.
Breaks are also a great time for engagement activities with volunteers around food and conviviality!