It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Election Day is rapidly approaching, November 8th. Are you prepared for the related absences? Don’t worry, ReedGroup has your back!

First, familiarize yourself with state voting leave laws. LeaveAdvisor has recently updated each state to include analysis on voting leave rights, so you can determine if you’re required to allow your employees time off to vote on Election Day.

In addition to managing absences on Election Day itself, employees may call in sick or arrive late on Wednesday, November 9, after a long night celebrating.  On the other hand, employees might contract the Election Day blues and be too depressed to work on Wednesday.

We’ve offered this advice before, vis a vis handling Super Bowl Monday absences, but it bears repeating as Election Day approaches: use the carrot and stick approach to manage anticipated unplanned absences related to foreseeable events such as Election Day.

Offering the Carrot:
It may seem odd to suggest rewarding employees for showing up to work as scheduled, but remember that even small incentives can increase attendance and productivity. Consider heading off the temptation to call in sick the day after Election Day and other popular unofficial absence days (first day of school, New Year’s Eve, Super Bowl Monday, etc.) by offering rewards to employees who attend work the day after the Election, such as:

  • a late start option, where employees may push back their shift by one to two hours;
  • an attendance incentive for showing up, like a gift card, free lunch, or extra PTO hours; or
  • encouraging managers to offer low-cost incentives, such as a team pizza party, for those who come to work.

Using the Stick:
Make sure your employees clearly understand the company’s absence policies, including paid time off (PTO), sick, and vacation, as well as unpaid leave under federal and state family and medical leave laws. You have several options to manage unplanned time off, including:

  • Don’t allow vacation or PTO to be used for absences that were not approved in advance; reserve that only for sick time;
  • Require that employees seek advance approval for PTO, vacation, or sick time taken on certain days of the year, or in the alternative, take the day off unpaid if the absence is unplanned. Many employers incorporate this policy for days before or after a paid holiday, and can add days such as the day after Election Day and Super Bowl Monday to that list.

If an employee calls in sick or reports an unforeseeable absence under the FMLA the day after the Election, the employer’s HR or leave administrator should pay close attention to the leave reason and whether it matches the circumstances under which the healthcare provider certified FMLA usage. If the employee doesn’t have a certification on file, the employer should inquire to determine if the leave reason triggers the FMLA or ADA, keeping in mind:

  • Alcohol consumption and related side-effects are not considered a serious health condition under the FMLA or a disability under the ADA, unless the absence is specifically for treatment of alcohol abuse;
  • Depression related to a particular candidate’s loss (or win) will not meet the definition of incapacity plus treatment or a chronic condition under the FMLA and is not likely to be a qualifying ADA disability;
  • An upset stomach due to the passing of a ballot initiative you didn’t support is akin to a common ailment, which is typically not covered by the FMLA’s definition of a serious health condition.

Reed Group Recommends:
Pay attention and compare notes. Did the employee tell his or her coworker that he planned to call in sick Wednesday if a winner wasn’t declared before midnight on Election Day, but reports to his manager he needs to stay home to care for his sick child? Did the employee text her manager that her car got a flat tire Wednesday morning and she’ll be late, but report to the HR hotline that she is using 2 hours of FMLA time to go to a doctor appointment?

Whether you use the stick, the carrot, or a little of both, employees should know that post-Election Day attendance, or lack thereof, won’t go unnoticed. Communicate with employees in advance that you are aware unplanned absences increase after events such as Election Day and ensure they understand your company’s plan to mitigate those absences.