With the dissolution of the Parliament, polling day or Election Day will be coming soon.
The question is whether the Government will declare a public holiday? If the Government is not declaring a public holiday, are employers bound by any law to give time-off to the employees to go for voting on polling day?
These are potential questions that might help in preparation for Polling Day:
Q1: Will Polling Day be a public holiday?
Traditionally, polling day is not a public holiday but sometimes, the Federal Government or the State Government may declare it as a public holiday under s.8 of the Holidays Act 1951.
In 2013, the Terengganu State Government declared 5th May 2013 (polling day) as a public holiday.
In 2018, the Federal Government declared 9th May 2018 (polling day) as a public holiday.
Q2: If the Federal Government declares a public holiday on polling day, is it compulsory?
All companies are required to observe this public holiday for polling.
Q3: If the State Government declares a public holiday on polling day, is it compulsory?
If the Company observes ALL gazetted public holidays in a year, then the public holiday for polling must be observed.
If the Company does not observe ALL gazetted public holidays in a year (but observes only specific ones, then the public holiday for polling day need not be observed.
Q4: If it is not a public holiday in my state, do I need to give my employee time off to vote?
You should only provide time-off to employees whose hours of work clash with the time slot given for voting. It is likely that time off will be granted to office based employees and employees who are on 12-hour shifts (day shift).
Failure to do so will be a breach of s.25 of the Election Offences Act 1954 which carries a penalty of a fine of up to RM5000 and imprisonment of one year.
Q5: If time off is necessary, how much time off do I need to give?
The Election Offences Act 1954 states:
“(1) Every employer shall, on polling day allow to every elector in his employ a reasonable period for voting, and no employer shall make any deductions from the pay or other remuneration of any such elector or impose upon or exact from him any penalty by reason of his absence during such period”
We would recommend employers to provide 1-2 hours as the ‘reasonable period’ depending on locality and traffic conditions.
Q6: Can we deduct the salary of the employee during the time-off since work was not performed?
In the same section, the Election Offences Act 1954 prohibits any form of deductions, etc.:
“(1) …..no employer shall make any deductions from the pay or other remuneration of any such elector or impose upon or exact from him any penalty by reason of his absence during such period”
Q7: My employee informs me that he is registered as a voter in another state. Do we give time-off for that too?
The law requires you to provide ‘reasonable’ time-off. Surely, this reasonableness does not include employees travelling to other states. For employees who are travelling, the Company can encourage them to apply for their annual leaves.
It is advisable for this to be notified in advance to avoid any misunderstanding or complication. If you are able to get employees to submit their annual leaves application in advance, you will also be in a better position to gauge your workforce for the day.
Q8: My employee is requesting unrecorded leave because he is involved in volunteering at the election. What should I do?
You do not have an obligation to grant unrecorded leave. You can encourage the employee to apply for annual leave instead.
With this, it is advisable for companies to communicate and prepare in advance to avoid any misunderstanding and disruption of workflow.