Leave a Legacy: Family Employment Policy

March 12, 2011 12:35 AM

Q: In one of your workshops and again recently in Farm Journal, the subject of a family employment policy came up. What is an employment policy, and where do I get one? We have three sons who are all interested in working with my husband. The oldest has never left. He works on the farm full-time. Our middle son will go to college in the fall, and our youngest is just starting high school.

A: A family employment policy spells out the criteria for hiring and employing siblings, children,
in-laws and other relatives. It helps everyone involved to maintain a businesslike environment in the operation and enables management to base hiring decisions on a written plan instead of an emotional impulse.

A good start. An employment policy might read like this: As a family operation, we are
committed to employing family members who demonstrate integrity, act accountably, are industrious and work to further the mission of this operation. We expect participating family members to be appropriately edu-cated, community minded and loyal to the employee team.

Each family member is encouraged to develop his or her skills and abilities. We will recognize and reward initiative, persistence, self-reliance and interdependence. However, we will only employ family members if and when there is an opening and the individual possesses the necessary education, experience and skills.

It is management’s responsibility to employ individuals who:

  • have the ability to grow as a member of the team;
  • demonstrate the ability to take initiative;
  • exhibit confidence and self-regard; and
  • are responsible and accountable for their actions.

Working in the family operation is a privilege, not an entitlement. Opportunities for employment are based on merit. We will hire based on company need. Applicants will be selected according to the skills, abilities and attitudes they bring to the workplace. The performance of each employee will be formally evaluated on a regular basis. If a family member does not meet company expectations, he or she might be released.

Conditions of employment:

  1. Family members will be held to the same standards as nonfamily employees/applicants.
  2. Family members will be subject to regular performance reviews and held to the same standards as non-family members regarding behavior. 
  3. Family members will be supervised by and held accountable to non-family members.
  4. Compensation will be based on a fair market wage according to the individuals’ job description, responsibilities and accountabilities.
  5. Family members seeking permanent employment must have [education level] and at least [___ years] of full-time, off-farm work experience.
  6. If a family member is not employable in another occupation or for another farm operation, he or she will probably be neither satisfied nor successful working under the often stressful conditions of this family farm operation.

In order to apply for a position on this family operation:

  1. Family members interested in working in the operation must apply for an open position. They must submit a resumé and cover letter citing a specific job opening.
  2. When there is an opening, family members will be notified and interested family members will be considered for the position.
  3. If there is not an applicant (family member or nonfamily) interested in a position, the job opening will be posted on the appropriate sites, publications and/or agencies.

A complete employment policy will help everyone—owners, managers, parents, children and nonfamily employees—to better understand, and to separate, family and business. Working in a family operation can be difficult and the relationships can be confusing. A family employment
policy is a written agreement that keeps everyone accountable.

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