Writing a handbook for employees is a great way to ensure that all the guidelines, processes and expectations are clear from the beginning. A policies and procedures manual is also a great reference tool and should be kept where it can be easily consulted when situations or questions crop up, as they ultimately will. Including a section on the policies regarding time off for voting and jury duty is essential for clarifying what is required of and expected by both the employer and employee. Well-written policies ensure that civic duties can be met with the least amount of interruption to the regular work schedule.
Know the Law
Knowing, understanding and applying the laws is essential when writing policies regarding time off, whether it is paid or non-compensated. Due to the civic expectation that citizens give their time to vote and serve on a jury when called, most states have laws regarding how employers may and may not handle these situations. While bosses may feel reluctant to grant time off for voting or jury duty, it is imperative that policies be written according to the dictates set by the state. Setting and adhering to limits within the legally-acceptable regulations allows protection for both the employer and the employee. Spelling out the rules beforehand prevents grey areas and legal battles.
Time for Voting
When writing policies regarding time off for voting, consult your state labor department first. Many require employers to give time off for any employee who does not have a block of time, usually several hours before or after work, during which to cast a ballot. This time must occur while the polls are open. If employee scheduling doesn’t allow for this open interval, write company policies that indicate how many hours will be given for voting, and be sure they align with the law.
Depending on the regulations, employees may be asked to provide proof that they voted during their absence. Some states also allow employers to require advanced notice if time off will be taken. Be sure to mention these expectations in the handbook so employees are aware of their responsibilities before election day.
Leave for Jury Duty
Allowing time off for jury duty may seem difficult from an employer’s perspective, but it is most likely required by law. Depending on the state, regulations can forbid employers from firing or disciplining employees who take leave for jury duty. Nearly all states have these laws. Guidelines may also prohibit managers from intimidating or dissuading their employees from participating in a jury. Policies regarding time off should address both lower-level employees and managerial staff, so each understands his or her role and obligation to follow the law in the instance that leave is necessary.
Compensation for Time Off
Whether an employer is required to give compensation for time off is dependent upon the type of employee that is requesting leave and the state laws. When an employee’s schedule prohibits him or her from casting a ballot during personal time, many states require the time off be paid. Whether compensation is required by law or not, be sure to include the company policy in the employee handbook.
When days off are needed for jury duty, compensation is usually not required, but this varies by state. Employers may choose to pay for this time, and the compensation guidelines should be clearly stated to avoid confusion on payday. If an individual is called to serve on a jury, he or she is usually offered a meager compensation through the court for his or her time.
Salaried employees are generally handled differently than hourly workers when it comes to compensation. These staff members normally must be paid their usual weekly wage unless an entire work week has been missed for jury duty. Specific written policies regarding compensation, leave and advanced notice is imperative to avoid legal infringements and to allow employees to fulfill their civic duties.
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