Do You Need to Offer Time Off to Vote?
When it comes to paid time off, a few policies get the most attention, like vacation time, sick days, and maternity leave. A topic that isn’t discussed as frequently is offering time off to employees so they can vote. From local elections to larger presidential elections, voting is a right that Americans have, but many don’t often take advantage of. One of the reasons why this happens is because people don’t have time to fit voting in between work schedules. Since 2016, Patagonia has been an example of a business shutting its doors for Election Day on November 6 every year so employees have the chance to vote. As a small business owner, there are some rules you should be aware of, and policies to consider implementing when it comes to employees taking time off to vote.
Listen To Your State
As with all things payroll and tax-related, it’s important to check out your state rules when it comes to voting policies. The majority of states (30) require employers to offer time off to vote, but the specifics vary by state. As examples cited from Workplace Fairness, Alabama gives one hour for voting, Alaska gives as long as it reasonably takes to vote, and Arizona gives three hours to vote. There are also exceptions that you will need to be aware of. For example, some states may say that time off for voting is not required if the employee has non-work hours before/after the polls open to cast their ballot. So in some cases, as long as there is time before or after a shift to hit the polls, you may not be required to offer any additional time off.
How to Manage Voting Time Off
As a small business owner, there is a chance that you are operating with a handful of employees. When you have a small employee base to begin with, offering extra time off on one day can be a scheduling challenge. You should start the conversation early with employees and gauge who will plan on voting. 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. 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. Additionally, if you work close to your voting location, and have flexibility, you could encourage a team outing to hit the polls and go together. Taking a break and spending some time outside of work is always a great way to boost employee engagement.
However, if you decide to follow in Pataganoia’s footsteps and shut your doors for the day so all of your employees can vote, make sure you communicate that ahead of time so your customers will have time to prepare and won’t show up to your closed business.
Other Ways to Embrace Voting
While presidential elections tend to get the most attention, local elections are also important to follow and get engaged in. Sometimes combining business and politics is complicated, but there is nothing wrong with encouraging your employees and customers to vote. An idea worth implementing is a special voting promotion; when customers come into your business with proof that they voted (think the “I Voted” stickers), they could get a small discount on an item or be entered to win a raffle. Embracing voting is a win-win situation as a small business owner because you are showing your customers that you care about certain issues, while also finding another way to engage with your customers and create relationships.
Work schedules are one of the largest deterrents to voting. As we gear up for a big election year, it’s important to understand the policies that affect businesses in your state and begin to make a plan now for how to implement a voting policy and share it with your employees.