HR Expert: Time off Work to Vote

Does my client need to give staff time off work to vote in the upcoming general election?

Your client can rest assured that there is currently no requirement for them to provide staff with time off to vote. Instead, it is up to them to plan their trip to the polling station in their own time. Therefore, if individuals do wish to take time off work to vote your client would be within their rights to implore them to book this as annual leave.

Staff may try to argue that they have a lawful right to vote and whilst this is true, there is nothing to say they should receive time off work to do this.  Although there is a right to reasonable time off work to participate in ‘public duties’ your client should understand that this is limited to specific activities such as jury service or trade union involvement.

Having said this, given the circumstances and potential consequences of December’s general election, your client may want to allow some flexibility to avoid any unrest at work. They should also bear in mind that employees who work night shifts, or have caring commitments outside of work, may struggle to find time to attend a polling station. Therefore, showing a degree of leniency may go a long way to fostering strong employee relations.

If your client does decide to allow staff time off to vote then they should make it clear whether individuals will be paid for this time. It is important that this is clarified from the outset to prevent any wage disputes further down the line.

It is also vital that your client remains consistent, as allowing some individuals time off to vote but not others may result in grievances and potentially even claims of discrimination if individuals feel they were treated unfavourably due to a protected characteristic.

With this in mind, it would be a good idea for your client to outline their approach to staff ahead of time, either by holding a staff meeting or distributing an email that explains their position. It is also worth considering that some individuals may look to circumvent your client’s rules by phoning in sick in order to vote. Whilst your client should not jump to unnecessary conclusions in these instances, they will be free to take disciplinary action if they have evidence to show that the illness was fabricated.

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