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How to look after your volunteers mental health

Volunteers are the heartbeat of charities and not-for-profit organisations. However, they’re not an employee or a worker and, therefore, do not have an employment contract. Therefore unlike employees, volunteers are not entitled to the minimum wage, holiday or sick pay, or other statutory employment rights. They will also not be enrolled into any employee benefits packages offering mental health and wellbeing support for example as standard.

Volunteers are often in the habit of giving to others. With mental health and wellbeing revealed as being the biggest risk in our UK Business Risk Report, what can you do to give back to them? How can you help protect your volunteer’s mental, emotional, and physical health? How can you create a positive and sustainable volunteer experience?

How to support a volunteer’s mental health

1. Screening

Assess their skills, experience, and physical capabilities. This step helps avoid placing volunteers in situations that may be too demanding or potentially harmful to their wellbeing.

2. Training

Provide comprehensive training and induction programs to prepare volunteers for their roles. Include information about potential risks, safety measures, and self-care strategies. 

3. Defined roles and responsibilities

Ensure they clearly understand their tasks, working hours, and available support. Avoid assigning responsibilities that are beyond their capabilities or outside the scope of their training.

4. Resources and support

Ensure your volunteers have the necessary resources, equipment, and support to carry out their tasks safely. This may include providing protective gear, appropriate tools, access to first aid kits, and establishing communication channels for immediate assistance or guidance.

5. Health and safety

Establish and enforce health and safety protocols to minimise risks. Conduct regular assessments of their working environments, identify potential hazards, and take appropriate measures to mitigate them. Provide volunteers with guidelines on maintaining personal safety and hygiene.

6. Rest and breaks

Encourage volunteers to take regular breaks and rest when needed, especially during extended or physically demanding projects.

7. Emotional support

Recognise the emotional challenges volunteers may face when dealing with sensitive or distressing situations. Establish mechanisms for emotional support, such as debriefing sessions, access to counselling services, or peer support networks. Encourage self-care practices and stress management techniques.

8. Recognition

Recognising volunteers’ achievements, acknowledging their impact, and celebrating milestones is essential. This helps foster a positive volunteer experience and be great for morale.1

9. Employee assistance programmes

Consider extending your Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) to volunteers allowing them to access mental health support.

10. Measure the impact of your programme

Volunteering connects people and communities and supports both the helper and those being helped. By collecting data and or, feedback from the activity or project your volunteers are supporting it will enable you to understand the direct impact they have. It’s important to know exactly how your efforts are making a difference.

At Marsh we can help you to measure the impact and to manage the risks associated with your volunteer programme, contact our charity experts.

Get in touch with a charity insurance expert