Corporate America is increasingly clearing the path for employees to hit the ballot box.
The share of companies giving their workers paid time off to vote has risen from 37 percent in 2016 to 44 percent this year, surveys from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) show. And Time to Vote, a CEO-led push to boost voter participation through strategies like paid time off, a no-meetings day and mail-in ballot and early voting resources, has signed on hundreds of companies to a nonpartisan coalition.
The public commitment from companies like Walmart, PayPal, Lyft and Kaiser Permanente is one of several outreach initiatives to get out the vote ahead of next week’s midterm elections — and an effort to surpass voter turnout in the 2014 midterms, which drew just around 36 percent of eligible voters. Among registered voters who didn’t vote in that election, nearly 27 percent said they were too busy or had a conflicting work or school schedule.
“We love seeing employers encourage civic participation by giving employees the flexibility to vote,” Mike Ward, the program director for the voter-participation app TurboVote, told Moneyish.
Lyft, for example, is “committed to making it easier to register to vote and learn about important ballot initiatives,” Mike Masserman, the rideshare company’s head of social impact, told Moneyish through a spokesperson. “We’re partnering with When We All Vote and National Voter Registration Day to ensure Lyft’s passengers, drivers and broader community are prepared for Election Day.” Initiatives include in-office voter registration for workers at their offices, encouraging the Lyft community to make an Election Day plan and asking people to keep meetings to a minimum on Nov. 6.
And outdoor apparel company Patagonia, a leader in the Time to Vote effort, will close its business on Election Day and give employees the entire day off to vote. “The momentum around Time to Vote gives me hope for a future where business can act as a force for good,” Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario wrote in a September blog post. “Together, we can remove barriers to civic participation and encourage all American workers to be citizens and voters first.”
The full day of paid leave to vote appears to be a rarity even among companies that offer paid time off for voting, experts from SHRM and TurboVote said. Dean Carter, a Patagonia vice president leading HR, finance and legal, told Moneyish it was an opportunity for all employees, particularly those highly active in civic engagement, “to engage in democracy in the way that they choose.”
“Every company should make sure their employees have no barriers — at least relating to work — in their opportunity to participate in democracy,” Carter added. “This is just the thing that you do in the US.”
Levi Strauss and Co., which partnered with Patagonia on Time to Vote, will allow corporate employees to take five hours off and retail employees to take three. “Supporting voting and democracy is a natural extension within the company’s history of social engagement,” Anna Walker, the company’s senior director of global policy and advocacy, told Moneyish. “It’s rooted in the passion and activism of our employees.”
“I think that you’ll see that it’s a great way to build employee support and employee loyalty — they see this as something you’re doing in support of them and to help them be civically engaged,” Walker added. “Externally, it’s helped us to raise the profile of the company as one that is engaged and out there.”
Liz Supinski, the director of data science at SHRM Research, suggested that the upward trend in paid time off to vote may be part of “a bigger picture of benefits becoming more diverse.” As the workforce in general grows multigenerational and more diverse while wages remain fairly flat, she told Moneyish, employers are competing for talent by offering more diverse benefits that appeal to different segments of their workforce. “Employers have gotten interested in low-cost ways to make employees happier,” she added.
People who believe they might not get time off to vote on Election Day should check deadlines for early voting in their state or see if they can vote by mail, Ward said.
And before asking your employer for time off to vote, Supinski advised finding out what state or local laws in your area require. Put in the request as far as possible in advance, be prepared to be flexible and inform your employer of any specific reasons you may need time off, she said — like child- or elder-care arrangements, or your transit options conflicting with voting hours.
“If you are granted time off to vote, don’t treat time off to vote like a vacation day,” Supinski added. “Do your best to minimize your time away from the workplace and, to the extent feasible, stay in touch when away.”
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