As the country revs up for a heated presidential election, Cheddar spoke with several large U.S. companies that are either closing for the day or offering paid time off to employees so they have the time and flexibility to vote. 

For some, this is the first time they've offered this kind of benefit, while others are refining their practices after taking them for a test-run in 2016. And it is not just about getting time off to vote: some companies have also added PTO for nonpartisan poll workers.  

In this Q&A series, we speak with corporate execs about their plans for Election Day and why they chose now to change the role of corporations in the voting process. 

Selena Kalvaria, chief marketing officer for Away, the high-end luggage company, kicks off the series.

What is Away's plan for Election Day?

To ensure that Away employees have the ability to exercise their right to vote, we will be closing our corporate office as well as all of our U.S. retail locations on November 3rd. Every U.S.-based Away employee will receive the full day off so they can vote, volunteer at the polls, or otherwise participate in the election.

Additionally, should Away employees require additional time to travel to/from their registered polling locations, they have the option to repurpose an upcoming company-wide day off in the days leading up to, or following, the election.

During the week leading up to the election, we are also encouraging our community to Travel the Vote. This campaign, which is coming to life via our website, social media, and retail channels, aims to provide support, encouragement, and helpful tips as people make their journeys to the polls.

How did Away come up with this particular approach?

Ensuring that all U.S.-based retail and corporate employees were given a day off was an easy decision to make. We recognized that voting in person isn’t necessarily a quick process 一 especially this year 一 so we prioritized giving our employees the full day to participate in the election.

Read More: Time off to Vote: Levi Strauss & Co.

How does this compare with its policies in past elections?

During previous elections, Away staff was empowered to take advantage of flexible working hours, the ability to work remotely as needed, and utilize their "Volunteer Time Off" hours if they wanted to work the polls.

What's different in recent years to inspire the change of course?

We heard directly from our employees that this year’s election was on the forefront of their minds. They expressed a deep desire to participate in voting and volunteering but were juggling the challenges of COVID-19 and the anticipated record number of voter turnout. As a company, we wanted to best support our team, so we prioritized giving all of our U.S. employees the full day off.

Does Away expect to change its policies for future elections?  

While we have yet to establish company procedures for future elections, we will certainly incorporate our team’s positive feedback into our planning and consider similar policies moving forward.

Going forward, what roles can corporations play in making voting easier?

Going forward, I hope that leadership at corporations will work more closely with their teams to establish voting plans. Each company may have a different approach 一 whether providing staff an entire day off, staggering windows during which employees can vote, or increasing the flexibility of remote working on/around Election Day, but facilitating voter participation should be a key priority.

What role can the government play in helping companies change their policies to make voting easier for employees?

Of course, the most impactful government action would be to establish Election Day as a federal holiday. I’d also be curious to see the impact of automatically registering employees to vote using information gathered by employment records and/or W-2 forms.

Short of that, local and state governments can certainly play a larger role by incentivizing businesses, both large and small, to facilitate and encourage employee civic engagement.

Note: Minor edits were made for clarity.

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