European elections: also sneaking into your company?
24/05/2019

Between 23 and 26 May coming, more than 400 million European citizens will have the right to vote in the European Parliament elections, albeit some may perhaps do so more enthusiastically than others.

Among those 400 million potential voters, a fair share are in active employment. So what do you need to know about the elections as an HR professional in Europe? We have rounded up the most common questions in the summary below.


Poland

Can the employee vote during working hours?

The elections in Poland will take place on Sunday 26th May 2019 between 7 am and 9 pm.  However, this day is not a non-working day for everyone. Polish law does not regulate the issue of leave from work to vote. An employee who is in such a situation can apply for a leave to vote, but it will remain at the employer’s discretion whether or not to allow the such leave.

Can your employee be summoned to man a polling station?

The employee may apply to work at a polling station. The employer must exempt the employee from the obligation to work in connection with his service at the polling station. Leave for that purpose is treated as an excusable absence and the employer is obliged to grant the leave. An employee who is a member of the polling station is entitled to up to 5 days’ leave for the performance of his duties. The employee retains the right to social security benefits and rights under the employment contract, with the exception of the right to remuneration. Such employee receives per diems and reimbursement of certain travel and accommodation costs from the state authorities. The employee should inform the employer at least 3 days in advance of the planned absence.

What if your employee is a candidate in the elections?

There is no obligation for the employer to obtain information from employees as to whether they intend to stand for elections. The provision of such information is in the employee’s interest in order to protect himself against possible termination of the employment relationship and by law the employee should behave loyally towards the employer. This means that the employee should inform the employer of any circumstances that may affect the performance of his duties.

The employee may apply for unpaid leave during the election campaign, as well as during the exercise of the mandate.


Belgium

Can the employee vote during working hours?

Belgium is one of the only countries to have compulsory voting.

If the employee has to work on the day of the elections and his working hours fully coincide with the opening hours of the polling station, the employee may vote during working hours (without pay) or opt for proxy voting.

Can your employee be summoned to man a polling station?

Yes. If the employee has to work on the day of the elections, he is to be released from his duties for the day, and his absence qualifies as paid leave (unless the employee serves as President of the polling station).

What if your employee is a candidate in the elections?

If the employee is elected, he will be entitled to (unpaid) political leave.

Candidates are also protected against dismissal, for 3 months after the election if they are not elected, and until 6 months after their mandate ends if they are.  During this time, they may only be terminated for reasons which are not related to their candidacy. If the employer fails to prove such reasons it has to pay additional compensation of up to 6 months’ salary.


Spain

Can the employee vote during working hours?

Yes, they can. When the elections coincide with the employee’s working hours, he will be entitled to paid leave on the following terms:

  1. Employees whose working hours overlap with polling hours for less than two hours will not be entitled to paid leave.
     
  2. Employees whose work schedule overlaps with polling hours for more than two but less than four hours are entitled to paid leave of two hours.
     
  3. Employees whose schedule coincides with between 4 and 6 hours of the polling station hours will have paid leave of 3 hours.
     
  4. Employees whose hours overlap with 6 or more hours with those of the polling station have the right to paid leave of 4 hours.

Can your employee be summoned to man a polling station?

Yes. If employees are called to serve on a polling station either as President or Member, they will be entitled to paid leave during the voting day provided it is a working day for them. In addition, they shall be entitled to 5 hours’ paid leave on the day immediately following the elections day (i.e. 27 May). This 5-hour leave on the day following the elections applies to all employees who formed part of the polling station, regardless of whether or not they had a weekly rest period on the elections day itself (i.e. 26 May).

What if your employee is a candidate in the elections?

If the employee is elected and performing his political activities results in his being unable to perform his work for more than 20 per cent of working hours in a period of three months, he will be entitled to unpaid leave.

If performing the political activities affects less than 20 per cent of his working hours, the employee may be entitled to paid leave for the necessary time.

Finally, Article 14 of the Spanish Constitution and Article 4.2 of the Workers’ Statute prohibit discrimination on the grounds of political opinions (among others).

Therefore, if an employee is able to prove that he has been discriminated against because of his political opinion (for being on the list of a specific political party, for example), he will be protected against dismissal for that reason. In such circumstances, if the court considers that the reasons alleged in the dismissal letter are invalid or insufficient the dismissal would be void.

Basically, the nullity of the dismissal would lead to the compulsory reinstatement of the employee on top of unlimited damages.


Germany

Can the employee vote during working hours?

If the employee has to work on the day of the elections and his working hours fully coincide with the opening hours of the polling station, the employee may take time off as required to vote during working hours.  The Civil Code states that in this case, the employee may not be deprived of his remuneration.

However, the employee is only entitled to this paid work break if he is unable to vote otherwise. This should only be the case for short-term assignments. Usually, the employee can be expected to use postal voting to avoid this.

Can your employee be summoned to man a polling station?

Yes. If the employee would otherwise be at work on the day of the elections, he is to be released from his duties for the day. The Civil Code states that in this case, the employee may not deprived of his remuneration.

However, the employee may be exempted from the duty as an election assistant if there is an “important reason”.  Important reasons are for example urgent job-related reasons, or Illness or physical impairment.

What if your employee is a candidate in the elections?

During the two months immediately prior to polling day, a candidate for a seat in the parliament shall be granted leave of up to two months on request for the purpose of preparing for the election. There shall be no entitlement to continued payment of emoluments during the leave.  During this time, the employee is protected from dismissal for related reasons.

If the employee is elected, the employee will be entitled to unpaid leave. The employee is also protected from dismissal on related grounds for one year after the end of the mandate.


UK

Can the employee vote during working hours?

Employees have no statutory right to take time off during working hours to vote.  They would need to seek the agreement of their employer to be able to do this.

Can your employee be summoned to man a polling station?

No.

What if your employee is a candidate in the elections?

Employees have a statutory right to take reasonable (unpaid) time off work to undertake certain public duties, but this does not include standing for election.

Employees may bring an unfair dismissal or discrimination claim if they believe they have been dismissed or subjected to other detriment because of their political activities, opinions or affiliation.


France

Can the employee vote during working hours?

Employees who work on election day can vote by proxy given to a person who is in the same register of voters, or who has the certified right to vote in the same municipality as the employee granting the proxy.

Nevertheless, if employees wish to go to their polling stations and vote themselves, the employer needs to take all necessary steps to enable employees to exercise their right to do so.

Can your employee be summoned to man a polling station?

Under articles R44 and R45 of the French Electoral Code, an employee can be appointed as an assessor or substitute by each candidate or by the Mayor.

The employee is to be released from his duties for the day, and his absence qualifies as paid leave (unless the employee serves as President of the polling station).

What if your employee is a candidate in the elections?

Employees who apply for election to the European Parliament are entitled to a leave of a maximum of 10 working days.

Employees should inform their employers at least 24 hours prior to each absence.

The leave of absence can be deducted from the paid leave entitlement of the employee. Otherwise, the employee does not receive any remuneration and/or the hours are recovered by agreement between the employer and the employee.

If the employee becomes an elected member of the European Parliament there is no specific protection against dismissal. However the employee may not be discriminated against for that reason.

During the employee’s term of office, on his request and if he has more than one year of seniority, the employment contract is suspended for a maximum period of 5 years and the employer is not required to pay.

After the term of office, the employment relationship is reactivated and the employee is reinstated in his former position or a similar position with equivalent remuneration.


For country-specific questions or more detail please contact:

Poland: Grzelak, Malgorzata P. malgorzata.grzelak@squirepb.com

Belgium: Caproni, Marga marga.caproni@squirepb.com

Spain: Regojo, Ignacio ignacio.regojo@squirepb.com

Germany: Falke, Martin martin.falke@squirepb.com

UK: Whincup, David david.whincup@squirepb.com

France: Sainsard, Jean-Marc jean-marc.sainsard@squirepb.com

Related : Squire Patton Boggs LLP ( Mrs. Marga Caproni )

Mrs. Marga Caproni Mrs. Marga Caproni
Partner
marga.caproni@squirepb.com

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