Q1.Whether it is compulsory to give an entire day off to workers on the day of election?
As per Section 135B of the Representation of the People’s Act, every person employed in any business, trade, industrial undertaking or any other establishment is entitled to vote at an election to the house of the people or the Legislative Assembly of the State and no wages should be deducted of any such person for granting this holiday. If any employer contravenes the provisions given in this Section, then such employer shall be punishable with fine which may extend to Rs. 500/- therefore this question can be answered in affirmative and as per Section 135B of the Act workers should be given an entire day off on the day of election.
Q2. Do I have to close down the factory or establishment/shop on the day of the election?
It is not necessary that the factory or the establishment/shop should be closed on the day of the election. The work can be continued with those employees who are not registered as voters in the Constituency where the elections are taking place, therefore the factory or establishment/shop can run with those employees who are registered as voters with different Constituencies.
Q3. Do I have to give paid holiday to all my employees on the day of election?
All the employees of the establishment or factory or shop who are registered as voters in the Constituency where the establishment/factory is situated shall be granted a paid holiday. Other can continue to work
Q4. Do I have to give a paid holiday to employees who are registered as voters in Constituency in which election is to be held on a different day?
As per the letter issued on 18th March, 2014 by Election Commission, the Commission has clarified that, the paid holiday shall be given even to those electors including casual workers from Constituencies other than the one in which the establishment is situated. Therefore the employees who are registered as voters in a Constituency in which election is to be held on a different day, such employees may not be given a paid holiday on the day of the election of the Constituency where the factory is located, but they shall be given paid holiday on the day the elections are scheduled in the Constituency where they have been registered as voters.
There is an ambiguity in Para 2 of the letter issued by Election Commission of India bearing No. 78/2014/EPS, dated 18th March, 2014 which states that,
“the above provisions require that all establishments and shops including those which work on shift basis shall be closed on the day of poll in the Constituency where a General/bye-election is to be held”
The provision of the Act nowhere mentions about closing of the establishment, it only mentions about granting paid holiday to the employees on the day of the poll. A similar ambiguity is mentioned in the Government Resolution passed by the Govt. of Maharashtra dated 28.03.2014.
Q5. I have employees who are from different States and the date of election in their respective State is different from the date of which election is scheduled for the Constituency where factory is situated, when should I give them holiday?
They should be granted holiday on the day on which election is going to be held in Constituency in which they have been registered as voters.
Q6. Can I ask my employees to give their votes in morning and then come to factory or establishment/shop and join duty
As per Section 135B of the Act, employee should be granted a paid holiday and this does not include a half day. Therefore the employer cannot ask any employee to give their votes and then resume the duty in any factory or establishment or shop.
Q7. Can I give half day off to my employees on the day of election?
It is mandatory that, on the day of the poll the employee of any factory or establishment or shop should be granted a full day paid holiday and they should not be asked by the employer to work for half of the day.
Q8. If our process is continuous and cannot be stopped for a day then, what should I do for the day of election?
In industries where there are continuous process employees who are very essential for the process can work by giving them enough opportunity so that they can exercise their right to vote and also should be paid an extra day wages for working on polling day.
Q9. What happens if the day of election falls on the day of weekly off then do I have to give additional day off in future to the employees or not?
If, the election falls on day of weekly off then, there is no requirement to give additional off in future to employees in lieu of this weekly off.
NOTE: In case of industrial establishments carrying on hazardous processes, and closure of such an establishment is likely to lead to accidents, hazards or some other danger, then the exception in Section 135B(4) can operate to protect the employer. A ‘hazardous process’ as per the Factories Act means any activity or process in relation to an industry specified in the First Schedule to the Factories Act where, unless special care is taken, any raw materials used, intermediate or finished products, bye-products, wastes or effluents would cause material impairment to the health of persons engaged in or connected therewith, or result in pollution to the general environment.
Section 135B does not prohibit an establishment to remain open on a polling day. Since voting is a right, it is up to the elector to exercise it. The employer is only required to grant a paid holiday to an employee who is eligible for voting. The circular passed by the Election Commission, however, states that an establishment shall remain closed on a polling day. In the event that an employee does not wish to vote, or wishes to attend to his duties inspite of his option to seek a holiday, it may be said that the employer will not be in contravention of Section 135B if he allows the employee to work on that day. However, there do not appear to be any Court decisions on this matter.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that as per the Circular/Government Resolution released by the Election Commission dated 18.03.2014 and Govt. of Maharashtra dated 28.03.2014; factories, shops, establishments, restaurants, theatres, industrial undertakings, IT companies, Shopping Centres/Malls, retailers etc. are required to be shut on the day on which election is scheduled in the constituency in which such establishments is situated. Although the Representation of the People Act, 1951 does not contemplate such a step, the same appears to have done to ensure that people are encouraged to vote. If establishments remain open, then workers may be tempted to come and work so that they can receive additional wages. Hence, establishments should take a reasoned decision regarding closure of operations on the day of election, as keeping establishments open on the day of election may be considered as violation of directives issued by Govt. of Maharashtra and Election Commission.