Define Personnel Policies

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Personnel policies are guidelines that an organization or company creates to manage its workers. Personnel policies describe the type of job performance and workplace behavior an organization expects from its employees, and what type of compensation and opportunities for advancement it is offering in return. The rules, requirements, benefits and opportunities outlined in personnel policies are often viewed as a reflection of an organization’s values and goals.

The Basics

Although personnel policies vary from company to company, most written policies are general rules that apply to all employees rather than specific job requirements for individual workers. Some of the most basic information includes the number of hours employees are expected to work each day, starting times, the amount of time allowed for breaks and lunch, and the number of sick days, personal days and vacation days each worker is entitled to take with pay each year.


Personnel policies also describe the pay employees can expect for their work, although often salary or pay levels or tiers are used rather than specific dollar amounts. Payroll schedules and whether employees are paid weekly or bi-weekly, opportunities to work overtime, pay raises, and what a manager may consider during an employee evaluation are also usually included. Companies also explain what type of health care benefits are offered for workers, and how much each individual is expected to contribute for that insurance. Reimbursement for mileage traveled in an employee's personal vehicle, on-the-job expenses such as special clothing, and education that enhances an individual's job performance are usually discussed as part of a company's compensation package.

Supervisors and Grievances

The chain of command or who supervises an employee on the job should also be part of a personnel policy. Many employers clearly state specific actions or behaviors that are unacceptable in a workplace and the types of discipline workers can expect from supervisors if those rules are broken. However, most personnel policies also include a grievance process that explains how employees can appeal a supervisor's disciplinary decision if they feels it is unfair.

Employment Law

Although employers can fill personnel policies with other requirements and benefits, in some cases, policy is determined by federal employment laws. For example, an employer can choose to pay its workers $100 an hour. However, an employer must, in most cases, pay a worker at least the federal minimum wage or the state minimum wage if it is higher. According to the Family and Medical Leave Act, a company with 50 or more employees must allow any worker who has been on the job for 12 months to take a 12-week leave of absence for the birth or adoption of a child, for a serious illness or an emergency involving the military service of a family member. The Equal Opportunity Commission enforces federal laws that prohibit an employer from discriminating against a worker based or her race, sex, religion or national origin.


Personnel policies are, in part, the result of a post-World War II movement that looked at the emerging field of organizational psychology and tried to apply certain rules to workers to make industry more productive and efficient. During the 1960s and '70s, the field of human resources began paving a more humane and socially aware approach to personnel policies that emphasized a worker's sense of safety, well-being and opportunity as a means to achieve greater productivity. Beyond productivity, writers like Jette Louise Flensburg, organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign and scholars like Matt Huffman at the University of Santa Barbara believe personnel policies have the ability to create and foster equality among workers.



About the Author

Laura Scott has been reporting for Gatehouse Media New England, Essex County Newspapers and other regional publishers since 1997. She won several New England Press Association awards for her coverage of the fishing industry and coastal communities. Scott is a graduate of Vassar College and has a master's degree in American studies from Boston College. She also attended art school in Italy.

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