The Time to Vote campaign, announced on September 24, is a nonpartisan effort aimed at increasing voter participation in the US by getting companies to enable or encourage their employees to vote. Some 140 CEOs have signed on to the initiative, including the heads of some of the country’s largest private employers:
The U.S. has one of the lowest voter participation rates in the developed world, recently as low as 36 percent, and one of the most common reasons that people give for not voting is that they are too busy, or have work and life demands that prevent them from voting. To change this paradigm, a diverse coalition of companies including Kaiser Permanente, Levi Strauss & Co., Patagonia, PayPal, Tyson Foods and Walmart are coming together, starting with the November elections, to increase voter turnout.
The Time to Vote campaign also aims to increase awareness about the steps employers can take to allow time for their employees to vote. The companies joining this campaign are committed to increasing voter participation through programs such as paid time off, a day without meetings and resources for mail-in ballots and early voting. And all of them care about their workforces and supporting democracy.
Whereas many countries hold elections on weekends or make voting days public holidays to ensure that most voters can take part, election day in the US is observed on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November and is not a national holiday.
Independence Day is a highlight of the summer for many Americans. The holiday is traditionally celebrated with barbecues and fireworks, and is one of the busiest travel days of the year. Unfortunately, July 4 falls on a Wednesday this year; whereas in other years, employees typically enjoy three-day or four-day weekends, this year most are just getting one day off in the middle of the week. Most national holidays in the US, like Presidents’ Day or Memorial Day, are observed on a Monday so as to create a three-day weekend, but the Fourth of July is always celebrated on July 4.
This has led to some extra stress and logistical challenges for managers this week, as they have had to juggle numerous requests for additional vacation days from employees trying to carve out a longer holiday for themselves: A small survey from Office Pulse found that most employees were planning to take at least one extra day off and that one in five managers were overwhelmed by the amount of vacation requests they were getting. Meanwhile, among those employees who were not taking extra days off, 19 percent said they would be “extra tired” or “hungover” when they returned to work on Thursday—among Millennials, 30 percent.
(Of course, not all US employers offer paid vacation, so many employees can’t afford to take additional time off at all.)
On the positive side, those who are able to make a five-day weekend out of the holiday (or even take the whole week off) have more time to travel. Whether or not they do so depends partly on the economy: The last time the fourth fell on a Wednesday, in 2012, travel trends were stagnant, whereas they set a record the time before that, in 2007. This year, AAA expects the number of Independence Day travelers to set a record again, predicting that 46.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home this holiday.
Super Bowl Sunday is coming up this weekend, when over 110 million Americans are expected to watch the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles view for the championship on television. Considering that so many US employees skip work, arrive late, or perform poorly the Monday after the nation’s most-watched sporting event, Jana Kasperkevic at Marketplace wonders if employers shouldn’t just give up on getting any work done that day at all:
27 percent of employees have skipped work after the Super Bowl altogether. About 36 percent of male employees and 16 percent of female employees have called in sick or made a different excuse for skipping work after a major sporting event, according to a recent survey of more than 1,000 workers by OfficeTeam. And while other workers didn’t stay home to nurse their Super Bowl hangover, another 32 percent of employees did arrive later than usual. On days after the big game, 42 percent of men and 20 percent of women were late to the office.
And yes, HR has noticed. When asked by OfficeTeam after which sporting event would they want to see a paid national holiday, 72 percent of the 300 HR managers surveyed said the Super Bowl.
Surveys in recent years have consistently shown a massive drop-off in productivity on Super Bowl Monday. A survey in 2016 found that 77 percent of American workers planned to watch the game and estimated that 16.5 million Americans would miss work the next day. This year, Challenger, Gray & Christmas estimates that the workforce’s Super Bowl hangover could cost employers over $3 billion in lost productivity. New England and Philadelphia are home to over 10 million workers, Challenger notes, and if even one in ten of these workers skips work next Monday, the lost productivity would amount to $194 million.
A growing number of US employers are closed today for civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, observed as a national holiday on the third Monday in January (this year it happens to coincide with King’s actual birthday). In fact, more employers give their workers the day off for this holiday than for Presidents Day, Veterans Day, or Columbus Day, Bloomberg’s Jordyn Holman and Jeff Green report:
About 42 percent of American employers will close on Jan. 15 in observance of the civil rights leader’s birthday, according to an annual survey by Bloomberg Law. The U.S. stock market is closed, as it is for the slightly less popular Presidents Day. (It is open on Columbus Day and Veterans Day.)
By comparison, the survey found, 34 percent of employers close for Presidents Day, 19 percent for Veterans Day, and 14 percent for Columbus Day. Over 90 percent shut down for “major” holidays like Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Independence Day. The survey also showed a marked divide in how many employers observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day in different industries:
Earlier this month, and just in time for the winter holiday season, Spotify rolled out a new paid leave feature that allows employees to swap their paid public holidays for other important days of their own choosing. The Sweden-headquartered online music, podcast, and video streaming company’s flexible public holidays policy is presented as a way for employees to “take the holidays that matter to them”:
They can choose to work on a day that is a public holiday in the country they work in, and swap it for another work day instead. This means they can be off of work on a day that fits their observations or beliefs better. For example, someone who works in a country where Christmas is a public holiday, can now choose to work on Christmas Day and switch it for a day off on another date that is important for them to celebrate. Yom Kippur? Diwali? International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia? It’s their day, their choice.
Flexible holiday policies like these are rare, however: According to an employer survey from SHRM last year, only 18 percent of employers allow their full-time employees to swap holidays, and only 12 percent let their part-time employees do so. Evren Esen, director of workforce analytics at SHRM, explained at the time that this low adoption rate reflected the fact that this practice is difficult to manage in many business contexts: “If a manufacturing plant is closed on Christmas,” Esen said, “it is impossible to swap Christmas with Ramadan.”
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and for most of the 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, it is also a holy period commemorated by a month of fasting.
The fast requires Muslims to abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset and encourages increased participation in charitable activity and prayer. In majority-Muslim countries, businesses often slow or shut down in an effort to accommodate the holy month, which began this year in late May and ends in the coming week. (The exact date of Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of the month, depends on the sighting of the moon and varies slightly from country to country—this year, for example, it begins on June 24 in the US but June 25 in the UK.)
In a corporate work environment, it can be challenging to meet these demands under the rigors of the traditional 40- to 50-hour workweek. Sure it may not be too difficult to part with your morning coffee or mid-afternoon snack, but what about going without water all day and skipping lunch? Waking up in the morning for work is difficult enough, but at the crack of dawn, every day, to have your last taste of food and drink before sundown is a lot to manage. Yet millions of Muslims from Los Angeles to London, including doctors, restaurateurs, and even professional athletes have found a way to make it work despite these obstacles.
Fortunately, according to research from Oxford Strategic Consulting recently featured at Australia’s Human Resources Director magazine, the modern workplace is becoming an increasingly friendly place for observers of Ramadan as employers with Muslim-majority workforces find more effective ways to support their employees during the holy month:
Next Thursday is Thanksgiving in the US, and whether Americans are looking forward to coming together with their families or dreading talking with them about the recent election, the good news for most US employees is that they will get two paid days off work for the holiday. According to Bloomberg BNA’s annual nationwide survey of holiday practices, four in five employers are giving their workers paid days off next Thursday and Friday (Thanksgiving itself is a paid holiday at 99 percent of employers). Bloomberg also suggests that this generosity may be indicative of the robust economy.
Not everyone gets Thanksgiving off, of course: Three in ten employers will require some employees to spend the holiday at the office, but 84 percent of these employers will give their Thanksgiving Day workers some kind of extra compensation, including time-and-a-half or double pay for the day, compensatory time off, or both. Large employers are much more likely than smaller ones to have some employees working on the holiday, and the employees most likely to have to work that day work in the areas of public safety, security, maintenance, and technical support. Manufacturing workers are the ones most likely to get a four-day weekend, with 91 percent of organizations in that sector saying they would offer paid holidays on both Thanksgiving Day and the day after, against 81 percent of non-business organizations like schools, police departments, and hospitals, and 74 percent of other (non-manufacturing) businesses.
In the retail sector, meanwhile, an increasing number of companies are opting to close for Thanksgiving Day, the New York Times’ Rachel Abrams reports, in a sharp reversal of a trend in recent years that saw retailers pushing to get a jump-start on lucrative holiday sales: