Is There a Right to Time off to Vote?
31 May 2017
Recent General Elections have seen a turnout of around 60-65%, with predictions for this election being in the low sixties. On that basis, a fair approximation would be that around six in ten of your staff will be voting. Should one of these voters demand time off to exercise their democratic rights, do you have to permit this?
The answer is ‘no’. Polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm, so it is highly unlikely your workers will be unable to attend at some point during the day. Even if this is not possible, options such as postal voting or voting by proxy mean that an employee is on shaky ground if they attempt to claim that you are depriving them of their rights simply by asking them to do their job.
Of course, if an employee does raise a concern of this nature, there is nothing to stop you coming to an agreement with them that will allow them to visit the polling station. This may be by way of a later start or it could simply be unpaid time off while they pop out. As long as you are consistent here there should be no issues - i.e. you don’t allow one employee time off to vote, but block another employee whose politics you disagree with. Also, employers should be wary of imposing last minute overtime on staff who might otherwise have planned to vote at the end of their shift.
Whilst on the topic of elections it should be stated that, where trade union elections are concerned, shop stewards and staff representatives have a right to reasonable time off for union duties and activities. Any such time off may be unpaid.
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