In the past few weeks I have been asked this question by three different organizations:  is the board of directors or the staff responsible for personnel policies?

This is one of those questions that gets an ‘it depends’ answer. If the non-profit is small and has only one employee that reports to the board, it makes sense that the policies related to that one person’s employment would be controlled and administered by the board as the direct supervisor of the employee.


personnel-smallHowever, in larger organizations that practice good governance, the board of directors delegates its responsibility for operations, including staffing and employment issues to its key staff person. Therefore, the development and administration of personnel policies should fall to the executive director.

Even where the personnel policies are the responsibility of the key staff person, board directors still have some interest in them owing to their liability for the overall organization. Most boards will rightly demand assurances from their executive director that:

  1. Staff are being managed under policies that are fair and consistent with organizational values;
  2. Personnel policies and changes to those policies have been reviewed by a qualified individual to ensure compliance with applicable legislation such as employment standards, human rights, workplace health and safety etc.;
  3. Compensation and benefits for employees are appropriately managed within budgetary constraints and are competitive in the labour market place for substantially similar non-profit positions; and
  4. Staff are offered a complaint mechanism where they can appeal to the board of directors if they feel that they are being treated unfairly under the stated policies and cannot resolve the situation directly with the executive director.

It is good governance practice to put board policies in place that delegate these responsibilities to the executive director and that outline how compliance with the board’s requirements will be met.