Election Day, Nov. 8, is almost here, and employers should be ready for the questions employees may have about taking time off to vote. Additionally, employers should make sure any company policies comply with state laws concerning time off for voting.

Not all states have specific laws regarding time off on Election Day, but Missouri and Illinois both do. In Missouri, the law requires that “any person entitled to vote at any election held within this state shall, on the day of such election, be entitled to absent himself from any services or employment in which he is then engaged or employed, for a period of three hours between the time of opening and the time of closing the polls for the purpose of voting.”

In other words, an employee who is a Missouri voter may take up to three hours off to vote if they otherwise would not have that amount of time off while polls are open. The law doesn’t apply if the voter already has three consecutive hours off work during the time polls are open.

Missouri law says there cannot be any deduction to an employee’s pay for taking time off to vote. It also says any absence for voting cannot be the reason for an employee to be fired (or be threatened with firing), penalized or disciplined. An employer can require that the request for time off be made before the date of the election, according to the law, and the employer may specify which three hours between the time of poll opening and closing an employee may be absent.

Illinois has similar requirements, but with a shorter time period specified. Illinois law grants that any person entitled to vote shall be permitted “a two-hour absence during working hours if the employee's working hours begin less than two hours after the opening of the polls and end less than two hours before the closing of the polls.” Illinois prohibits any penalty or pay reduction against an employee for taking time off to vote, provided that he or she gives advance notice.

Before Election Day, employers should send a message to all employees advising them of the company voting policy, including any requirement that they request time off for voting in advance.