The online RCAP Resources Library has a variety of resources that are useful to small, rural drinking water and wastewater systems.

All Employers Need Personnel Policies and Procedures. Yes, Even Small Utilities.

Does your water system have personnel policies? You may think your operation is too small to need policies, but if you as a board or governing body hire people to work for the system, then it is an employer, and all employers should have personnel policies.

Policies are documents created to clarify intent and describe how regular functions of the system are administered. They are used to protect the board from misunderstandings that might lead to unauthorized behavior or lawsuits. A policy helps to ensure that everyone is treated equally by the system’s governing body. Policies ensure consistency and help credibility.

A policy that is not in writing is not really a policy. Relying on a general understanding of board members or the judgment of the manager or chair of the board should not be considered having policies in place. Policies should be written, shared and freely accessible so that everybody can be clear on what the rules are.

Personnel policies are only one category of policies that you should have in place. The others include customer service policies and billing and collection policies.

The first part of each policy statement should be an overview, including why the policy was created. The second part should explain who the policy applies to, who has authority to determine whether the policy is being adhered to, and how and to whom appeals should be directed if there is a dispute. The last part of each policy gives details on what is required, who is exempt from the policy, how misunderstandings and deviations are to be handled, and how long the policy remains in effect.

Personnel policies spell out exactly the roles and responsibilities of both the employee and the employer. If your board has never created personnel policies before, you should contact your state’s Department of Labor. It can help you get started with templates for personnel policies that include:

  • job descriptions and requirements
  • compensation and pay periods
  • benefits, including vacations, sick leave, insurance, and retirement funding
  • training and educational assistance
  • shift scheduling
  • performance evaluation procedures
  • hiring and firing procedures
  • grievance procedures
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rules
  • a safe and respectful work environment
  • conflict of interest and ethics codes

To help get you started, RCAP also has a set of sample job descriptions that you can use and adapt in your system. It has created these job descriptions for the typical positions at a small water system:

  • general manager
  • certified water operator
  • maintenance service technician
  • office manager
  • bookkeeper/operations clerk

All are available electronically so you can easily modify them. Also available from RCAP are suggested procedures for hiring and terminating employees. Find them in the resource described below (Appendix F, page 105).

These resources are part of RCAP’s The Big Guide for Small Systems: A Resource for Board Members (available as a PDF).