The Commissioner of Elections is warning Employers that not allowing their staff leave to cast their vote is a punishable offence.
According to a statement released to the media, Chairman of the Election Commission, Mahinda Deshapriya states that it has been brought to their notice that some employers have failed to grant leave to staff as stated in section 122 in the Parliamentary Elections Act. No.1 of 1981. The Act specifies that staff must be allowed, ‘no less than four hours in duration without loss of pay.’
Employers must grant sufficient leave to any staff making such a written request, and ‘the periods for which such persons have been granted such leave shall be conspicuously exhibited at the place of employment,’ the release states. If a voter requests for the polling card at the time of voting, the release states that District Returning Officers have been instructed to inform polling staff to return same to the voter, with the permission of the Senior Presiding Officer, so the staff person could show proof to the Employer.
A second release from the Commission outlines the minimum duration of leave that must be granted to staff, as identified by the Human Rights Commission in 2014. As per the guideline, for a distance of 40 km of less, half a day’s leave should be granted, one day for those having to travel more than 40 but less than a 100 km, 1.5 days if it is up to 150 km and 2 days if the staff person has to travel further than that. The EC further states that since some may require three days to reach their assigned polling station and return to work, that duration should be allowed. It also states that staff must do their best to return to their work places within the shortest possible time.
If an employer does not allow leave for a staff member to cast his or her vote and if this fact is brought to the notice of the Deputy / Assistant Commissioner of Elections of the District Elections Office immediately, the District Commissioner of Labour will be informed so the issue could be raised with the employer concerned. As well, the District Election Office will inform the employer of the complaint, and the Secretary to the Ministry of Skills Development, Employment and Labour Relations will provide the necessary advice to the District Assistant Commission of Labour regarding the matter.
The Elections Commission states that it has received complaints citing the following from voters who had not been granted leave to participate at the poll during previous elections: Not accepting requests for leave to vote, not giving enough time to be able to vote, failure to pay for approved holidays and failure to Inform the applicant to submit written evidences or official poll card received by post to confirm that they are voters.