In the UK, elections are held on working weekdays. This coming general election falls on Thursday 7 May 2015. Although polling stations are normally open from 7pm till 10am, with the average working day amounting to between nine and ten hours (including lunch breaks and travelling time) the working population struggles to be squeezed through polling stations before or after working hours.
If an employee turns up to work late because of voting, or leaves work early to vote, strictly speaking they will be in breach of their employment contract, which could lead to disciplinary action. Unfortunately legislation and national policy remains silent on the right to vote during working hours. Therefore it will be up to employers to decide when they allow employees time off to vote. Of course employees may not be prepared to make a request of their employer at the risk of their career being jeopardised, especially if their manager is not political themselves.
The UK specifically outlaws discrimination on political grounds. However workers in the UK are not protected from discrimination on grounds of any ‘philosophical belief’, which may include a political philosophy or doctrine. The risk of a discrimination claim may of course be enough for employers to think twice before simply applying a blanket refusal policy. In practice however, it would be unlikely for the right not to be discriminated against to be so far-reaching as to permit an employee to ignore his or her contractual obligations to attend work in order to vote.
So if your employer is not sympathetic, the safest bet is to endure the crush at the poll stations out of working hours.
Published on 24/04/2015