Whether on the local or national stage, political elections happen every year. But only every four years, does a Presidential election take center stage. Although each election cycle seemingly grows more imperative and divisive, this year’s election has the added weight of the COVID pandemic, widespread social unrest, high unemployment, and a looming recession tacked onto it as well. With all of these issues and more at the forefront of employees’ minds, it is crucial for businesses and HR professionals to know how to properly handle politics inside of the office and out, as well as managing Election Day at work.

Election Day comes with its own unique set of issues and complications that need to be taken into consideration, including time off and other company policies. To ensure a fulfilled and engaged workforce, as well as a safe and productive work environment, follow these guidelines for encouraging civic participation and managing Election Day in the office.

Encourage voting

As a company with community ties and valued employees, you should want to do all that you can to empower civic action for your employees, customers, and communities. Here are several ways HR can encourage participation among employees:

  • Distribute information on registering to vote, where and how to vote, and information about mail-in and early voting. Timely reminders from HR on deadlines, voting procedures, and company policies will go a long way in encouraging participation.
  • Adopt flexible time-off policies (PTO, closing early, closing the whole day). While early voting is an option that should be encouraged, most people will still wait until Election Day to cast their ballot. Even though PTO is not required for voting in most states, businesses should make it a priority to give their employees ample opportunity to vote without consequence. While most businesses cannot close all day, certain times can be blocked off or have schedules coordinated to not disrupt the business day.  
  • Hosting a voter registration event is a great way to engage employees in the voting process. Even better, make it a part of your new hire onboarding process along with all the paperwork already being completed. It can even be just another automated step in your process if you are using HR technology like NetGuide.
  • Offering PTO for poll workers and volunteers is a great way to encourage employees to not only engage in the process but also become actively involved in the local community. Out-of-the-box initiatives like this show your company cares about your employees and your community, while also increasing employee engagement and happiness during Election Day at work and beyond.  
Remain neutral

The most important thing to consider during all of this to remain fair and neutral in all of your company’s policies and activities. Don’t tell employees who to vote for, obviously, or even nudge them in a certain direction. Non-partisan messaging is critical in your organization’s communication around voting and election information. Focusing on the act of voting and civic engagement, not who or what to vote for.

Know the local laws

While many states require employers to provide time off to vote (including some with paid time off), there is no nationwide mandate for how businesses must handle Election Day at work. Employers need to be aware of the applicable state-law requirements before fielding requests from workers wanting voting leave. It is equally important that employees are informed of their rights and company policies beforehand. HR and management should know how much time employees are entitled to take off, according to local laws, as well as when during the workday employees can take off without disrupting operations, based on business needs. Employers must also be careful not to say anything that could be taken as discouraging or penalizing employees from voting on Election Day (rather than early voting or mail-in), as this would violate voting-leave laws and alienate employees. 

Create policy and update the employee handbook

As with anything involving time off (paid or unpaid), employee engagement, company events, and community outreach, it is necessary to make sure company policy has been created and available to employees via the employee handbook and other company resources. HR should make this information readily available well in advance of elections, share it multiple times with all employees, and update it periodically to ensure complete compliance.