This week in the US, it’s pretty much impossible to escape the pending mid-term elections, in which 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 35 seats in the Senate and 39 state or territorial governorships are to be contested, in addition to other state and local offices. Many communities will have special measures on their ballots impacting local taxes and other referendums on issues of importance to citizens.
How Many of Your Employees Plan to Vote?
Most states are anticipating record voter turnouts, as indicated by a surge in voter registration and a sharp increase in the percentage of young voters (ages 18-29) who plan to cast a vote on the 6th. Record turnout also means longer lines at the polls and for most U.S. workers, the majority of polling hours overlap with the traditional workday. In fact, schedule conflicts are one of the biggest reasons people give for not taking the time to vote in an election. Chances are, many of your employees are eligible to vote in your district and are planning to go to the polls to cast their vote in these highly anticipated mid-term elections. As an employer, you may be faced with employees who ask to come in late or leave early in order to take the time that may be needed to vote. Deciding how to handle these requests and to otherwise support your employees’ right to vote should be viewed from two perspectives: what is complaint and what will best mirror your organization’s employer brand and corporate culture.
State Laws Impacting Employee Voting Rights
There is no federal law that requires employers to give workers time off to vote, but 20 states have provisions that require companies to allow employees paid time off to vote. Some require that the employee is given unpaid time, and others do not specify. The time granted varies from state to state as do requirements regarding providing notice of these rights to workers. In a recent article in SHRM, it is recommended that employers become familiar with the applicable laws in their state, as many states have unique voting leave requirements and penalties.
Best Practices to Support Voting Rights
Regardless of the law in your state, it likely makes good business sense to support and encourage your employees to exercise their voting rights. When organizations give employees time to participate in civic and community activities, it has a positive impact in engagement and productivity. Some companies have even taken the step of making election day a corporate holiday. When planning for scheduling on election day, it makes sense to talk to employees about their plans and schedule shifts to allow for both voting and adequate coverage at work. If your organization employers workers in more than one state, it may be fair and smart to extend the most generous state-mandated policy to apply to all workers across the organization. Employers should also consider other policies that would make voting more feasible during the workday, including minimizing barriers to voting by declaring November 6th a “no meeting” day, and allowing employees with significant commutes to work to work remotely in election day.
Getting Back to Business After the Vote
The morning after a big election can be a sensitive time in the workplace as many employees will be disappointed in the results. A study after the 2016 presidential election found that workplace performance was negatively impacted for those who were not on the winning side. For employees with strong feelings about their politics, negative election results may feel very personal. Employers can ease the impact by avoiding scheduling important tasks or meetings the day after a big election and communicating workplace priorities clearly the rest of the week to help employees refocus. With HR consulting expertise to support employer compliance and a suite of solutions designed to support every aspect of the employer-employee relationship, Asure Software can help your organization maximize its investment in human capital.