Preparing for Election Day 11.6.18

Election Day 2018 is fast approaching, and with everything going on in our political landscape, it will be a record turnout at the polls. These results could impact your business, so it’s a good idea to review your time off to vote policies now to minimize disruption on November 6th.

As an employer, you are not only obligated to ensure your employees can take time off to vote, but your state law may also mandate it. While there is no federal law that outlines time off to vote, over half of the US states have laws that do.

State laws vary from state to state, and some even outline the amount of notice an employee must provide to request time off to vote. Others may even require advance postings of their policy to employees.

While some states have no time-off requirements, Georgia law requires that employees get granted time off to vote if they cannot vote during non-working hours. Georgia employers must provide two hours of leave to vote in “any municipal, county, state, or federal political party primary or election for which such employee is qualified and registered to vote.” Employees in Georgia must provide reasonable notice to their employers, and they must not otherwise have two hours outside of work to attend the polls and vote to be eligible.

I’ve typically seen Georgia employers have a simple yet straightforward policy allowing time off to vote, up to two hours, if employees cannot get to the polls during non-working time. This time off request may be submitted and approved how you would typically process time off requests but shouldn’t get deducted from PTO or other time off policy balances.

Click here if you would like to receive a free Time Off to Vote policy that you can copy and paste into your employee handbook. Please keep in mind this is a Georgia-specific policy, so check your state law and edit as needed. If you are unsure of your state-specific law, I’m happy to help clarify that for you, or you can check with your employment attorney.

Lastly, don’t just communicate this policy to your employees. Encourage and support them to get out there and vote!

The dreaded “F” word…

The Flu!

Experts say this flu season is shaping up to be the worst in nearly a decade, and it’s not over yet. Some small companies are getting hit so hard it’s difficult to keep the doors open. Others are faring ok but feeling the pain with employees out sick and trying to keep up by working from home.

No matter your company or policies, I think we can all agree that when an employee is sick, it’s best for everyone they stay home!

What does that mean for employers that have basic paid time off policies? How do you encourage employees to stay home and use that day of PTO instead of coming in and “powering through,” thus exposing the entire team, company, office, and everyone that comes in contact with them along the way to the dreaded virus? Who are then going to be doing the same thing? Someone has to put a stop to the vicious cycle.

Also, what are the employee rights if there is no paid time off available? Can they apply for leave under a state or federal program? Do they just call out and go unpaid, risk losing their job, or unable to pay their bills? Or are they forced to take precious vacation time to stay home and get well?

From a legal perspective, only a few states require employers to offer Paid Sick time. Georgia is not one of those states, so decisions to provide paid sick leave are really up to each employers’ practice and policy.

From a federal perspective, under FMLA job-protected leave, the common cold, flu, and other everyday illnesses would not qualify. These illnesses on their own do not meet the definition of a serious health condition under the ruling and would not be eligible under FMLA leave.

As an employer, what can you do to prevent the flu from disrupting your entire business and losing valuable work hours and productivity from your employees? As a general rule, I recommend that employers focus on the things they can control within the company, which means policy, practice, and culture.

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There are the usual practices to stay healthy, like encouraging plenty of handwashing and sanitizing, providing tissues and a clean, sanitary workspace, and maybe some healthy snacks in the breakroom. If you are looking to do more for your business and employees, consider these more effective options:

  • Develop policies that encourage employees to stay home when sick. Offer paid time off for employees to stay home as needed to either get well themselves or care for a sick family member. It doesn’t have to be a separate sick policy. It can be a Paid Time Off or PTO policy covering sick, vacation, personal time, or any time needed out of work.
  • Create a culture that supports employees taking time off when ill. Leaders should practice what they preach, stay home when you are sick! If an employee is out sick, make sure they know not to return to work until they are fever-free for at least 24 hours. Also, don’t make employees feel even worse for missing time. Please give them the support to take time as needed and come back when healthy.
  • Support practices that allow employees to work from home, as needed. Many companies have the capability to enable employees to work virtually or from home, but they just haven’t done it. Make the change and support work from home or virtual working capability.

Here’s to staying healthy and feeling good in 2018!

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