15.4 Establishing a salary scale

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.