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Personnel Policies

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC. Note that matters of employee law and regulations apply the same to for-profit and nonprofit organizations.

Sections of This Topic Include

About Personnel Policies
Sample List of Personnel Policies
Training on Policies
Various Perspectives on Personnel Policies

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Related Library Topics

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Library's Human Resources Blog

About Personnel Policies

Role of Personnel Policies

There are numerous laws and regulations which regulate the nature of the relationship between an employee (and volunteer, in the case of nonprofits) and his or her organization. They are intended primarily to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and equitably regardless of their race, creed, color or sexual orientation. They are intended to ensure that the treatment of employees and volunteers is based primarily on their job performance. Common types of activities guided by the laws and regulations are, for example, hiring and firing, benefits and compensation, affirmative action, rights of privacy, discrimination and harassment, and wrongful termination.

One of the fastest growing types of lawsuits brought by employees against their organizations is wrongful termination of employment. Other common types of lawsuits are in regard to allegations of discrimination and harassment. It is far better for organizations first to ensure that these types of improper types of behaviors do not occur, than to have to defend themselves in courts of law. The best way to ensure occurrence of proper behaviors is to enact comprehensive guidelines regarding how employees and volunteers are treated in the workplace. These general guidelines are called personnel policies. Specific sequences of activities resulting from the guidelines are often called procedures.

Note the difference between operational policies and personnel policies. Operational policies are to guide how employees conduct the activities of the organization, ranging from how a client joins a program to making sure the coffee maker is unplugged at the end of the day. Operational policies are not about the nature of the relationship between the employee or volunteer and the organization.

Developing Personnel Policies

Each organization should carefully consider what policies it requires and how they should be worded. When developing policies, always consult an expert who is very knowledgeable about federal, state/provincial and local laws regarding employment practices. For example, in the USA, consider the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Americans with Disabilities Act of 1992, and Occupational Safety and Health Acts. In Canada, some major employment laws are Employment Insurance Act, Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security Act, Canada Labour Code, etc. Personnel policies might also be governed by union rules or other contractual agreements.

Many organizations develop their policies first by closely reviewing policies of organizations with similar programs and services. While that practice is a good start, you still should have an authority on employment practices review your policies. Finally, in the case of corporations, the Board should formally approve the policies and the approval should be documented in Board meeting minutes.

Sample List of Personnel Policies

The following is a sample list of policies. Consider the following list to get an impression of some of the major policies in an organization. This list is by no means definitive for every organization. The policies developed by an one organization depend on the nature and needs of the organization.

Work Schedule

Work day hours
Lunch periods
Sick Time
Personal Leave
Leave of Absence
Severe Weather
Jury Duty

Hiring Procedures

Americans With Disabilities Act
Interviewing job candidates
Checking references
Offering employment

New Employee and Internal Orientation

New employee orientation -- general information
Agency-wide new employee orientation
Intern orientation
New employee and internal orientation checklist


Overtime and compensation time
Classifying employees as exempt or non-exempt
Salary ranges
Positioning pay within a salary range
Maintaining competitive salary information
Reclassifying positions
Salary review policy
Promotional increases
Withholding salary increase due to performance
Withholding salary increase due to leave of absence

Payroll Information & Timekeeping Procedures

Payroll information -- General
Payroll information -- Direct deposit procedures
Payroll information -- Required and voluntary payroll deductions
Timekeeping -- General discussion of non-exempt and exempt employee classifications
Supervisor's signature


Eligibility and general information
Types of available benefits
Medical insurance
Dental insurance
Disability insurance
Supervisory communication
Life insurance
Confidentiality note
Retirement plan
Social security
Employee advisory resource

Workers' Compensation Information and Procedures

When there is an injury or accident on the job
What is covered under Workers' Compensation
Type of injury covered by Worker's Compensation Insurance
Medical expenses resulting from a work-related injury
Resources available

Performance Assessment Procedures

Performance assessment cycle
Performance assessment process
Dealing with performance issues
Discipline: when the positive approach does not work
Separation from employment checklist
Communications by the supervisor regarding personnel issues
COBRA (Consolidated Budget Reconciliation Act)
Leave-taking procedures

Financial Management

Budget management
Capital expenditures
Supervisor's responsibilities in maintaining the budget
Operating management
Financial reporting

Supplementary Information

Discrimination or sexual harassment complaints
Complaints regarding programs or staff

Data Practices

Security of Records
External releases
Internal releases
Use of data
Legal procedures
Destruction of records
Staff access

Training on Policies

If employees’ or volunteers’ (in the case of nonprofits) behaviors do not conform to the written personnel policies for your organization, and if an employee or volunteer sues your organization, then courts will consider your written policies to be superseded (or replaced) by your employees’ or volunteers’ actual behaviors that you appeared to be permitting to occur.

For example, if policies specified that employees should not discriminate on the basis of race, creed or color, yet there was a history of your employees clearly discriminating against other employees on that basis, then courts will conclude that your policies are to permit discrimination. Therefore, it is critical that employees and volunteers have clear understanding of each personnel policy and that their behaviors conform to those policies. The best way to accomplish that understanding if for employees and volunteers to be trained on the policies and for their supervisors to always be sure that policies are followed. Training about policies can be carried out by ensuring that:

  • All employees and volunteers receive an orientation that includes overview of the policies and procedures.
  • All employees and volunteers sign a document that indicates that they have reviewed the policies and will act in accordance with them.
  • Supervisors regularly issue reminders to employees and volunteers about key policies.
  • All supervisors themselves act in accordance with the policies.
  • Any violation of terms of the policies is immediately addressed with reprimand or termination of the employee or volunteer, depending on the nature of the violation.

Various Perspectives on Personnel Policies

Sample List of Personnel Policies
Sample policy and procedure layout template
Human Resource Policy Directory
Example Personnel Policies
More policies and procedures
Policies and Procedures

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