15. Additional guidelines for non-presence operations


  • Ensure all policies comply with local labour laws.
  • Put HR infrastructure in place to help move from set-up phase to ongoing programmes.
  • Establish a basic salary scale as quickly as possible.
  • Determine appropriate employee benefits appropriate to the local context and legal requirements.
  • Adapt a human resources policy manual (sample annexed) as soon as possible.

The guidelines in sections 15.1 to 15.5 refer exclusively to emergency response situations where there is no approved long-term presence and no established CARE CO. Such temporary presence could take place in countries where CARE has no presence whatsoever, or in countries where one or more Members has a ‘limited presence’.

Employment law and accepted practice varies significantly between countries. All terms and conditions must adhere to local labour law requirements, and these must be taken into account in any review or development of HR policies, systems or procedures. CARE must subscribe to the provisions established in the labour legislation in any country.

In some cases, it may be necessary to seek advice from a legal advisor. Regular follow-up of the changes in the national legislation is needed, especially in countries undergoing major political changes or restructuring, as amendments to the law may occur at any time.

In a non-presence country, where no CARE CO exists, the first steps are to set up initial infrastructure that will establish the HR systems and procedures for the first two to three months of operation. This HR infrastructure also provides a foundation on which an expanded or continued programme will be based.

The CO should always consult with their Lead Member Human Resources Unit on the development and application of HR systems and procedures. The Lead Member will have access to many HR resources already used by other COs under their management control. The guidelines in this chapter also provide essential information in relation to the management of emergency staff, and must be applied accordingly.

Shortly after arriving in a new area where no CARE CO exists, a brief set of policies and procedures for managing national staff must be developed. After six to 12 months, when the start-up phase is over and a CO presence is likely to be ongoing, a more detailed set of policies and procedures must be developed. Please refer to a sample CO HR manual at Annex 16.47 National staff-human resources policy manual (Sri Lanka example). The manual should be modified to suit the local operating context. Once modified, the document has to be reviewed by a legal advisor to ensure all terms and conditions specified comply with local labour law requirements.

At the beginning of an emergency, it is useful to set up a preliminary grade structure that groups jobs of similar content and responsibility at the same level within the structure. This is essential to enable the CO to be consistent when applying pay for different jobs. Salaries should be determined after a speedy, informal but confidential survey of those organisations doing similar work-that is, other international NGOs in the host country and UN agencies.

After six to 12 months, when the start-up phase is over and a CO presence is likely to be ongoing, a more refined grading and salary structure must be developed. Refer to Annex 16.48 Sample salary structure for emergency situations.

National staff is usually paid in local currency only. The only exception to this rule is during the first two to six weeks of an emergency, where the economic and banking structure has collapsed (hyperinflation, unavailability of local currency), then salaries partly or fully paid in hard currencies may apply. In such cases, the CO should establish strict limits on how long salary will be paid that way, and these limits have to be formally communicated (a memo signed by the Country Director or delegate, and verbal information by line managers or HR staff).

If national staff is recruited to work in different towns/regions in the same country, it is crucial to apply the same salary scale in all locations even when the cost of living differs widely from town to town due to the emergency situation prevailing. Those differences should be compensated by the cost of living allowance paid to staff working in more expensive locations.

The allowances must be announced by formal communication (signed by the Country Director or delegate) in which it is also explained that the allowances are paid only as long as the cost of living differences justifies it. This makes it easier to transfer employees from one location to another at a later date if necessary and allows for easy harmonising of salaries in the country once the situation returns to normal.

A CO typically develops its own set of employee benefits based on local labour law, an understanding of benefits applied by local international NGOs and guidance from the Lead Member Human Resources Unit. In the context of an emergency, only employees with employment contracts of six months or longer should receive annual leave, sick leave and/or termination benefits.

All employees, regardless of their contract, must be eligible for medical benefits. In countries that do not have socialised health plans, each employee should receive a fixed amount per month to cover any medical expenses. Benchmarking with other local international NGOs and UN agencies working in the region will help determine an appropriate amount.