Should I give my employees time off for Election Day?
We’re getting close to Election Day, and now with a pandemic on top of all of the ordinary concerns about getting to the polls, businesses owners and managers understandably have questions about their obligations regarding their employees this voting season. Notably, there are no federal or state laws in North Carolina that require businesses to give employees time off for voting.
However, while the law doesn’t require employers in North Carolina to provide leave, it is nonetheless good practice for businesses to offer paid time off to vote, especially as this year continues to call for flexibility and cooperation. Despite the lack of state mandate, it is still a good idea for employers to create their own policies providing paid time off, particularly where essential workers and employees with transportation difficulties may struggle to find sufficient time to vote outside of working hours. Along with time off, employers should encourage workers to exercise their right to vote in any manner possible.
How much time should I give?
Where state laws don’t mandate time off, the Society for Human Resource Management has suggested it is best practice to allow employees up to two hours of leave for voting. But given the unusual circumstances this year, where COVID-19 policies will likely exacerbate long lines and wait times at polling locations, some extra leniency in providing time off may be worthwhile.
Alternatively, employers can also provide time off before Election Day for early voting so that leave can be spaced out and voting lines may be shorter. North Carolina voters can locate early voting locations and view available dates and times for early voting in their county through the One-Stop Early Voting Site Search.
What else can I do?
Of course, employers can also do more than simply provide time off for voting. Even small efforts around the office can incentivize and encourage employees.
Vote by mail. Encourage employees to vote by mail. Employers can provide stamps in the office for mailing in ballots or even set aside time during the day for employees to fill out their ballots and serve as witnesses for each other. Absentee ballots in North Carolina can still be requested until October 27, 2020 at 5:00 PM. Registered voters can request absentee ballots through the NC State Board of Elections online portal or else download an absentee ballot request form to mail in. A filled-out and properly witnessed ballot can be returned for counting until Election Day, November 3, 2020, at 5:00 PM. More details about voting by mail are available through the NC State Board of Elections’ Voting by Mail FAQ