Should Companies Give Employees Time Off to Vote?

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Voter turnout in the U.S. significantly lags behind that of most highly developed, democratic countries.[1]  It’s a complex issue, and one that many individuals care about. But do organizations have any obligation to address it—for instance, by giving employees time off to vote? While extra paid or unpaid time away from work may pose direct and indirect costs for employers, many employers are willing to invest in these programs on the basis of their impact on society—a phenomenon Deloitte identified as “The rise of the social enterprise” in its 2018 Global Human Capital Trends Report.[2]

There is currently no federal law in the United States that requires employers to offer time off to employees for the purposes of voting. However, the majority of U.S. states have enacted laws that allow for time off to vote.[3] Some elements of these laws vary from state to state—for example, time limits and whether the time off must be paid.

State-level legislation notwithstanding, employers may certainly decide to offer voting time off in states where it is not required, or to exceed statutory minimums in states where it is. The website ElectionDay.org[4] tracks many employers who have decided voluntarily to offer paid time off for the purpose of voting and offers resources and information to those considering it.

California-based outdoor retailer Patagonia goes beyond any statutory requirements by closing its headquarters, its distribution and customer service center, and all of its retail locations on Election Day to encourage customers, employees, and citizens to vote.[5] The company also supports the “Time to Vote” campaign, a nonpartisan, business-led effort aiming to increase voter participation on Election Day.[6]

Employers who are considering enacting Election Day programs have many options to offer employees: a work-from-home day, a few hours off or shortened business hours, or even a full day off. Implementing a consistent policy across an organization (being mindful of state-by-state requirements) can help ensure that all employees have a chance to vote. And global organizations can consider broader civic hours policies to support local and national elections around the world.

Of more than 11,000 organizations surveyed for Deloitte’s 2018 Global Human Capital Trends report, 77 percent identified citizenship and social impact as an important priority, yet only 51 percent said they were ready or very ready to address it.[7] A commitment to encouraging employees and others to vote may be one lever to pull as part of a broader organizational effort to help improve citizenship and increase social impact.

 

[1] “U.S. trails most developed countries in voter turnout,” Pewresearch.org / Drew Desilver, May 21, 2018, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/05/21/u-s-voter-turnout-trails-most-developed-countries/.

[2] 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends: The rise of the social enterprise, Deloitte Consulting LLP and Deloitte Insights, 2018, https://hctrendsapp.deloitte.com/reports/2018/the-rise-of-the-social-enterprise.html.

[3] “State Laws on Voting Rights/Time Off To Vote,”Workplacefairness.org, https://www.workplacefairness.org/voting-rights-time-off-work.

[4] “Make Election Day a Company Holiday,” Electionday.org, https://www.electionday.org/.

[5] “Patagonia closes its doors on election day, encourages voters to prioritize environmental issues,” Patagoniaworks.com / Tessa Byers, October 28, 2016, http://www.patagoniaworks.com/press/2016/10/28/patagonia-closes-its-doors-on-election-day-encourages-voters-to-prioritize-environmental-issues.

[6] “Time to Vote,” Maketimetovote.org, http://www.maketimetovote.org/.

[7] 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends: The rise of the social enterprise, Deloitte Consulting LLP and Deloitte Insights, 2018, https://hctrendsapp.deloitte.com/reports/2018/the-rise-of-the-social-enterprise.html.

Peter DeBellis

Vice President, Total Rewards Research Leader / Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Pete leads total rewards research for Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP. Pete has a deep understanding of the various tools organizations use to attract, motivate, develop, and retain talent—from compensation and benefits to worker wellbeing programs to experience and actualization opportunities, among others. His experience, gained as in-house rewards professional for public companies and as a consultant, helps him understand the critical linkages between total rewards, HR strategy, and overarching business objectives. Pete holds a bachelor of science degree in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University.

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