Rishi Sunak has made his big reveal.  We are going to the polls for a General Election on 4th July and whilst we all navigate our way through the electioneering and debates on the different parties and their policies, what might this period bring for you as an employer?

In Scotland this falls on the first week of the school holidays and a very popular week for us Scots to take off on holiday, so chances are that you will already have authorised annual leave and now you have to factor in time off to vote, time off for caring responsibilities if schools are closed on the election day and time off for those who want to volunteer.  There are already calls for volunteers to man polling stations and those who are affiliated with a political party may want time off to support their cause.

How are you going to manage the additional requests for time off?

Do you agree to the time off to support the individual requests at the risk of diminishing service or customer delivery?  Do you refuse the requests at the risk of upsetting individuals (who might just take the time off anyway on the day) and creating some “bad” feeling?  Or do you discuss and agree a more flexible approach such as adjusting hours of work to accommodate requests whilst minimising service delivery?

There may be no easy answer but some thought and consideration before the event might mitigate the last-minute no shows or grudging attendance.  Some flexibility around hours of work may be the answer.

It is going to be an emotional time.  The Euros will be full on, and football can often turn up the emotional dial.  Although politics is not everyone’s bag, the outcome of the election will impact on all of us.  Both these events can give rise to discussion and not everyone is going to agree. For some it is a good excuse for some “banter” and debate. It will not be the first time that this has spilled out into the workplace, caused tension, distraction and at worst some ill feelings.

What is your responsibility as an employer?

We all have a right to our opinion and freedom of speech.  We have a right to come to work and feel safe and protected and not to witness or be subjected to inappropriate behaviour.  I think that you do have a responsibility to ensure that discussion does not become unpleasant, heated or aggressive.  Individuals have a right to their opinion and that should be respected whether at home or at work.  As an employer you have a responsibility to set the tone, identify and deal with unacceptable behaviour preferably in the moment and address issues to prevent repetition.  You may need to speak with your managers and ensure that they know how to deal with such situations so that your employees can have their opinion, feel respected and safe whilst at work.  Ultimately you need to be aware of what may be perceived as bullying and harassment in the workplace due to political beliefs and exercise the provision of your policies accordingly.

You may consider avoiding the sharing or displaying of political paraphernalia, symbols, posters and other media in the workplace for all parties or campaigns.  In this way remaining apolitical to avoid disputes and to remain neutral for your customers and stakeholders.

Postal votes may be the answer for some who are going away on holiday.  You can get advice here postal votes.  Some may need to download and print the form – are you OK with employees using your printers and stationery for this purpose?  Does that conform with your policy?  Or do employees need to ask for permission to ensure they are not in violation of your rules?  Do you need to make that explicit for the purposes of voting at the General Election?

Lastly, ensure that your social media platforms are not used to share or promote personal or political messages, unless that is a specific strategy you wish to follow.  You could revisit your social media policy and remind employees that their personal views should not be shared on your platforms so that you are in control of your messaging.

It will be a time of heightened emotions and there is much at stake for many, but some thought and communication you can minimise the impact it may have on individuals and your business.