While some employers provide paid time off for their employees to vote in a general election, others go further with programs that encourage employees to volunteer in their community.
WorldatWork’s “2019 Inventory of Total Rewards Programs and Practices” survey found that 49% of employers provide paid time off to volunteer. Employees across the country are likely to utilize these programs to volunteer at polling stations on Election Day, including Sandra Avila, strategic assistant to the CEO at WorldatWork.
Avila is taking advantage of WorldatWork’s MAD (Make a Difference) Program, which provides one day of PTO for employees to volunteer in their community.
“I view working in the polls as a civic duty. With that in mind, I wanted to find ways to get involved and contribute to our country and democracy,” Avila said. “So, when I heard that there was a need for younger poll workers in this election to protect those at higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19, I saw an opportunity to be involved and to help in a time of need.”
For Avila, this year’s election is of particular significance. An immigrant from Mexico City, she officially became a U.S. citizen in January, thus this will be her first time voting in her new country. As many Americans can sometimes take their voting rights for granted, Avila said the arduous process to become a citizen illuminates the importance of exercising your right to vote.
“It took several years, lots of forms, a civics test and rigorous interviews,” Avila said of the citizenship process. “It was exciting because it meant truly becoming part of the country where I live and work. And while I will never be able to run for president, I am able to actively participate in our democracy through my vote.”
Avila, who was put through about four hours of training to prepare for working the polls on Election Day, said she’s thrilled to be able to volunteer with the support of WorldatWork and is hopeful other companies provide similar opportunities for their employees going forward.
“It encourages people to get involved and engage with the democratic process. I think we are already seeing more companies giving their employees paid time off to vote and to work the polls on Election Day,” Avila said. “While it may have been fueled by the pandemic and potentially long waits that may be experienced at the polls, I think this is just the beginning. COVID-19 has put on the spotlight employers’ core values and whether or not employees see an alignment.”
Giving Workers Time Off to Exercise a Fundamental Right
The 2020 presidential election is tomorrow and while more people are opting to vote by mail this year given the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, Nov. 3 still represents a day where many will head to the polls.
From an employer standpoint, it represents an opportunity to encourage civic duty among your employee population. This year, more than 1,400 corporations and businesses have committed to giving employees the flexibility they need to vote through the “Time to Vote” campaign. However, there’s still a fair amount of companies that don’t allow formal time off for voting purposes.
What’s more, some experts have concluded that giving workers time off to vote isn’t just a matter of convenience, but it could be a significant step in reducing barriers to the ballot box for low-wage service workers and voters of color, who often face more difficulties in efficiently voting in-person.
In a LinkedIn poll by WorldatWork, 63% of the 124 respondents said their employer allows for time off to vote on Election Day while 37% do not. Organizations that don’t provide this flexibility to their employees should reconsider, says Scott Cawood, CEO of WorldatWork.
“When it comes to the issue of employers letting their employees take time from their workday to vote, the short answer is ‘just do it,’” Cawood said. “There are numerous state and local ordinances that require it, some paid and unpaid, but more than that is the fact employers have the opportunity to help their workforce exercise a fundamental right and I would hope each employer does all they can to enable each and every person to vote.”
In some states, however, employers don’t have a choice. There are currently 30 states in the U.S. that legally require employers to give employees either paid or unpaid time off to vote. The amount of time off required varies by state, but is usually a minimum of three hours.
“While I applaud voter-leave-laws, I am more interested in employers finding ways to create flexibility and options so that everyone has a chance to vote,” Cawood added.
About the Author
Brett Christie is the managing editor of Workspan Daily.