Employer-sanctioned time away from the office to vote is becoming a growing trend, as concerns grow that low voting rates are due in part to difficulty getting away from work.
Paid time off is often a way to give employees a rest, a little flexibility in their schedule, and maybe even a chance to plan a dream vacation.
But for many employers, PTO is quickly becoming a way to help encourage employees to get to the polls. With just 55.7 percent of U.S. adults voting in 2016, according to the Pew Research Center, and even fewer expected to vote Tuesday, a bit of encouragement to get to the polls might lead more people to do their civic duty—as being stuck at the office is often cited as a reason many stay away.
But there’s evidence that employers are working to change this state of affairs. The Society for Human Resource Management reported earlier this year in its 2018 Employee Benefits Survey that 44 percent of employers are offering paid time off to vote. While the organization didn’t start tracking that data point until last year, it was up 2 percent. Meanwhile, unpaid time off to vote fell from 33 percent to 29 percent.
In comments to CNBC, SHRM Senior Media Specialist Vanessa Hill noted that the two data points on their own don’t offer the full picture, however.
“That’s because there are many state laws about time off to vote, and many laws have different requirements,” she told the news outlet. “What the stats show is that some employers are going above and beyond their state laws to offer paid or unpaid leave to vote.”
SHRM offers a variety of resources for employers about how they can handle PTO requests for staffers who want to vote. The organization recommends that in states without a voter leave law, employers allocate up to two hours for employees to vote.
The interest among employers in supporting their workers’ ability to vote has led to the creation of at least one advocacy campaign, Time to Vote, which has been successful in getting more than 140 companies—including major retailers such as Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart, services firms such as Farmers Insurance and FleishmanHillard, and tech companies such as PayPal and Lyft—to support the cause of giving employees time away from their jobs to vote.
“The companies joining this campaign are committed to increasing voter participation through programs such as paid time off, a day without meetings and resources for mail-in ballots and early voting,” a news release announcing the campaign’s formation stated. “And all of them care about their workforces and supporting democracy.”