Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Voting rights are not automatic

Employees don’t have an automatic right to take time out of their working day to vote in the General Election.

That’s the warning from George Heron at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, who said employees should ensure they make the most of the extended opening hours at local polling stations – from 7am to 10pm.

“With such long opening hours, it’s highly unlikely that staff will be unable to attend at some point during the day – so there really is no need for them to be disrupting their working hours.

“And even if they can’t fit in a trip to the polling station outside of work, options such as postal voting or voting by proxy mean an employee would be on shaky ground if they tried to claim their employer was depriving them of their voting rights just by asking them to do their job.”

Mr Heron said if an employee really was struggling to get to the polls, there was nothing to stop an employer coming to an agreement with their staff.

“You may decide to allow them to start their working day slightly later, or they could simply take unpaid time off while they cast their vote. As long as you are consistent, there should be no issues – but you must not allow one employee to take time off to vote and then block another.

“Employers should also be wary of imposing last-minute overtime on staff who may have planned to vote at the end of their shift.”

Mr Heron said though that where trade union elections were concerned, shop stewards and staff representatives had a right to reasonable time off for union duties and activities, but any such time off could be unpaid.

“It’s vital that employers are consistent with how they treat their staff on Election Day, but employees also have to take personal responsibility to ensure they find the time to exercise their democratic right.

“Businesses need to know they can continue to operate normally on the day, without worrying about their operation being short-staffed at crucial times.

“With a turnout of around 60% predicted, around six in ten staff from any one workplace will want to vote, so the polls are open for such a long time to make sure everyone has the opportunity to take part, no matter how busy their day is.”