The Election Commission has announced that Malaysia will go to the polls on 9 May 2018 (Wednesday). In the short period of time since the announcement, we have already received numerous queries from clients about how to manage this situation given that 9 May 2018 is a weekday. We’ve prepared this short article to address some of the questions we’ve received so far.
Are employers required to give their employees time off to vote?
The short answer is yes.
Section 25(1) of the Election Offences Act 1954 (“Act”) states:
“Every employer shall, on polling day, allow to every elector in his employ a reasonable period for voting, and no employer shall make any deduction 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.”
As such, employers must allow their employees a reasonable period to go out and vote on polling day.
What happens if an employer doesn’t allow their employee to vote?
The Act states that any employer who refuses, or by intimidation, undue influence or in any other manner, interferes with the granting of a reasonable period for voting, shall on conviction be liable to a fine of RM5,000 or to imprisonment for one year.
Further, it is also an offence under the Act to obstruct or prevent a voter from voting at an election. Any person who does so shall be liable on conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years and to a fine not exceeding RM5,000.00 or both. In addition, violators may, until the expiration of 5 years from such conviction, be incapable of being registered or listed as an elector or of voting at any election.
What is a “reasonable period for voting”? One hour? Half day? One day?
The Act does not define what amounts to a “reasonable period for voting”. As such, it is likely be determined on a case by case basis. For example, if an elector’s polling station is nearby, the employer is unlikely to be required to give the employee the entire day off just to vote. However, a full day may be reasonable if the employee’s polling station is in another state.
Can an employer treat the voting day as “annual leave” and deduct it from the employee’s annual leave balance?
The Act is silent about this. However, as the Act provides that an employer shall not make deductions from pay or remuneration, or otherwise penalise the employee, we would conservatively advise employers not to treat the voting day as annual leave.
What happens if polling day is declared a public holiday?
If polling day is declared as a holiday under the Holidays Act 1951, the employer can choose not to observe the public holiday and may grant the employee “any other day as a paid public holiday” in substitution. (Read our earlier article about observing public holidays for more information).
However, if the employer doesn’t observe the public holiday, they must still provide their employees a reasonable time to vote on polling day.
Have a query? Please contact us.