Companies Expect Distracted Workers for Midterm Elections, Says Survey

John Harrington

This year, Americans are riveted on the outcome of the midterm elections, which are held between the presidential elections, more so than in other years.

Companies are anticipating heightened interest in this election cycle, which is reflected in a new survey from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based global outplacement and executive search firm. Challenger Gray found that 29% of employers report their employees are seeking time off on Nov. 6 to vote or to follow coverage of the elections. The survey was conducted by 150 human resources executives earlier this month.

Among the issues piquing the interest of election-watchers this year have been the contentious nomination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the progress of the caravan of migrants from Central America that are headed to the southern border of the United States.

“While most companies are not experiencing any unusual increase in time-off requests, many workers will be laser-focused on election coverage that day, likely while they are at work,” said Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger Gray.

Challenger Gray said about 21% of the companies surveyed said they don’t usually get time-away requests on Election Day, but they have this year. About 2.9% of the businesses surveyed said that while they usually receive vacation requests for Election Day, they are getting more requests this year. About 6% of companies surveyed said they typically get vacation requests on Election Day, and that this year is the same as in previous years.

Voting laws permitting employees time off to vote varies by state. Some states require employers to allow voters time to vote, and time is either paid or not paid. Other states do not require employers to allow time for workers to vote.

The Challenger Gray survey found about 60% of businesses permit their employees time to exercise their right to vote without penalty. About 32% of companies expect their employees to vote on their own time.

Because Challenger Gray expects this election to be closely watched, it could have an impact on the workplace. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that 61.4% of eligible voters exercised their right to vote in the 2016 election, and Challenger Gray estimates that if that voter turnout percentage is applied to employed Americans, those workers who take one hour to vote on company time could cost employers $2.14 billion.

“With the polarizing nature of the elections and the number of important issues at stake for Americans, workers will likely be immensely distracted by coverage and could cost employers billions in lost productivity,” said Andrew Challenger.

Will you give workers time off to vote November 6? Responses
We always give workers extra time to vote with no penalties. 58.82%
We expect workers to perform this duty before or after their shifts. 23.53%
We give workers unpaid time off to vote, if they need it. (For workers who clock in, they cannot be on the clock when they vote.) 0.00%
We let workers come in later or leave earlier on Election Day. 5.88%
We do not make any accommodations for workers to vote. 2.94%
Workers can use PTO to vote, but we do not give them extra time to do it. 8.82%
Have workers requested time off on November 6 specifically to vote or follow election coverage? Responses
We do not typically see an increase in time-off requests on Election Day, but this year we have. 20.59%
We typically see an increase in requests for time off on Election Day, but this year we have not. 0.00%
We typically see an increase in requests for time off on Election Day, and this year is on par with other election years. 5.88%
We typically see an increase in requests for time off on Election Day, and this year we have seen even more. 2.94%
The number of requests for time off is on par with what we usually see this time of year and has nothing to do with the election. 61.76%
Other. 8.82%