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Personnel Policy and Fair Compensation for UU Congregations

The Principles of Fair Compensation calls congregations to:

  • have written Personnel policies and have a committee responsible for the administration of these Guidelines and other personnel or human resource issue.

Personnel Policy Model

A model Personnel Policy Manual (PDF) has been proposed for consideration by Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations that may wish to modify their current personnel Manual, or to create such a Manual for the first time.

This model Manual is an outgrowth of the work done by volunteer district compensation consultants with congregations around issues of fair and equitable compensation—issues grounded in the core of the UU commitment to social justice. On many occasions, consultants discovered that congregations either had no written personnel policies or that the existing description was outdated. In addition to creating situations where every personnel decision was being made on an ad hoc basis—and thus potentially open to allegations of discrimination or favoritism—the absence of such a Manual might leave the congregation open to a legal liability.

The Manual has been reviewed and approved by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Committee on Compensation, Benefits and Pension, and by the Council on Church Staff Finances.

This Manual is offered to congregations for their consideration, modification, and adoption. The provisions in the Manual are not mandated by the UUA; they are derived from state and federal legal requirements. In addition, some of the provisions are simply good management practices. The Manual will be used most effectively as a jumping off point for identifying the important questions to be addressed by the governance body of the congregation.

For example, take the policy on paid vacation. Providing paid vacation leave has become the de facto practice of most congregations, and such leave for religious professionals is one of the fair compensation guidelines (PDF) adopted by the UUA General Assembly in 1995. However, a congregation will still have to answer a number of questions about vacation, such as:

  • How much vacation will support staff employees receive?
  • What is the accrual schedule?
  • Do part-time employees accrue vacation?
  • Can employees borrow against unaccrued vacation?
  • Is unused vacation leave paid out on termination?

Once those policy questions have been resolved, the answers can be plugged into the language of the Manual.

It is important that your Personnel Policy Manual clearly indicates the obligations of both the employer and employees, and that they do not make promises which cannot be kept. Such Manuals:

  • assure that each new employee receives the same information about workplace rules, expectations, benefits, and procedures.
  • help employees know what is expected of them.
  • provide an avenue for the constructive resolution of complaints when they occur.
  • offer some measure of legal protection if an employee later challenges the employer in court.

Given the significant state-by-state variations in employment laws and regulations, it is not possible to prepare a model Personnel Policy Manual that will work effectively in all fifty states. Thus, each congregation must understand the importance of having its Manual reviewed by an attorney familiar with the employment laws of the state in which the congregation is located before the Manual is finalized.

For more information contact ocsf @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Wednesday, December 3, 2014.

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