While getting time off to vote is a right in some states, it is not in others.
In fact, Workplace Fairness provides a U.S. map with links to all 50 states' laws regarding voting rights. And, for those states in which it is a right, there may be parameters, such as a designated amount of time; e.g., 1 hour or 3 hours, or the employer is only required to offer it if the employee will not have enough time to vote before or after work, while polls are open.
As the United States presidential election draws near, companies have been addressing their own policies - or lack thereof - and many are eager to ensure their employees can turn out at the polls, regardless of their legal obligation to do so.
"A growing number of U.S. companies are pledging to give workers time off to vote in the presidential election this November," according to the Los Angeles Times.
Among those offering time off are Starbucks, providing election-day flexibility to its 200,000 employees and Walmart, whose 1.5M U.S. workers will receive up to three hours of paid time off to vote, according to the LA Times. Additionally, Apple, Coca-Cola, Cisco and Uber all are providing time off to their employees.
1. How Small Businesses Can Plan Paid Time Off
For small business owners for whom employee time away will be more disruptive to their lean-staffed operations, consider beginning the conversation early with employees. This way you can "gauge who will plan on voting," suggests Stephanie Davis in, Do You Need to Offer Time Off to Vote?
"While it's important to allow employees the chance to express this freedom, you also can't have employees leaving in the middle of their shift and disrupting the flow of your business," says Davis, adding, "It may naturally work out where you have employees who plan to vote at different times throughout the day so it won't impact your business."
However, if disrupting workflow is less of an issue, consider arranging a team outing to the polls, enhancing employee engagement.
Moreover, if you decide to shutter the office for the entire day to enable employees to vote, be sure to communicate ahead of time with your customers to manage expectations.
[Read more: How to Manage Teams When Working Remotely]
2. How Leaders at Larger Companies Can Encourage Voting
For larger companies and/or for those where employees are dispersed across multiple states, Larry Dunivan's article, Ideas and Resources to Encourage Employees to Vote, offers these suggestions to help inform and encourage their employees to vote.
Start with understanding state-by-state protocols; e.g., early voting, voting by mail, absentee voting. Recommendations include taking an inventory of the states where your employees live; from there, document on a summary basis what's possible in each state; further, provide reminders to register to vote, and include deadlines.
Dunivan also suggests you "make a commitment to recognize activities such as National Vote Early Day 2020 on Oct. 24, 2020.
3. How to Message Voting Policies Internally and Boost Voter Participation
Several other companies that are openly encouraging their employees to vote include Target, Walmart, Twitter and General Motors, and they are "providing information, reminders and paid time off to their employees," according to SHRM Employee Relations Editor Nancy Cleeland in her article, 10 Ways to Help Employees Vote.
A full summary of Cleeland's ideas to communicate with employees and bolster voter participation follows:
- Distribute logistical information about voting (how, where + when).
- Host a voter registration event.
- Adopt flexible schedules (no Election-Day meetings).
- Provide paid hours to vote.
- Offer employees use of printers for absentee ballots; pay postage.
- Send reminder emails to vote.
- Encourage employees to offer child care, elder care or rides to the polls for others in their communities to vote.
- Give paid time off for employees to train as poll workers.
- Reduce operational hours on Election Day.
- Close entirely on Election Day.
4. Offer Employees a Frequently Asked Questions Site
Another method to support employees' questions about the protocols for taking time off to vote is to develop a frequently asked questions (FAQ) site.
The Vanderbilt University website does just that, articulating detailed responses to questions such as, "If I need some additional time before or at the end of my work shift in order to vote, do I have to notify my supervisor in advance?" and "Do I have to present proof to my supervisor that I am a registered voter, or that I actually voted, if I request time off to do so?"
Vanderbilt's site is based on Tennessee law, which says that employees are entitled to a reasonable period of time off (up to 3 hours) to vote on Election Day without loss of pay. Each business will want to customize their FAQs based on their governing laws.
Bottom Line: Be a Pro-Voter Leader
While companies will want to avoid a partisan approach to civic engagement, as it may alienate employees or customers, a study by Harvard Business Review suggests a "sweet spot for firms: being pro-democracy and pro-voter, without being partisan."
Leadership can exhibit their pro-voter mindset by applying some of the encouraging messaging and protocols described above. Moreover, they can set an example by taking time off to vote and coming in late with their "I voted" stickers, thereby normalizing the civic duty so that others feel empowered to do so, as well.
Your people will remember how you supported them so they could perform their civic duty. To get involved in the conversation on Glassdoor and start managing and promoting your employer brand reputation, unlock your Free Employer Account today.