Guidance for (Acting) Returning Officers administering a UK Parliamentary election in Great Britain

Flexible staffing at polling stations

You should prepare a list of staff you can approach who can step into a role where a person is unavailable – for example, due to sickness. The list should include staff that would be able to work at very short notice.

While appointing stand-by staff may not always be practical or feasible within your budget, you should be prepared to deploy staff flexibly on polling day to respond to specific issues that may arise. 

You may also wish to rotate staff appointed within your polling station to undertake different roles through the course of the day, such as providing information to those entering the polling station and checking voters have brought the correct photographic ID to be able to vote.

You could also consider appointing part-time Poll Clerks to provide assistance at expected peak polling hours or in the run-up to 10pm. In addition, you could appoint a team of back-up polling station staff to be deployed at peak times to specific polling stations or to respond to specific issues that may arise throughout polling day or at the close of poll. If parts of the constituency are not easily accessible, it may be helpful to have teams positioned in different parts of the constituency area. 

To be able to deploy staff flexibly on polling day, you will need to train staff appropriately. You should train Poll Clerks and Presiding Officers in such a way as to ensure that both have the technical knowledge to carry out each other’s roles if required and as far as the law permits.

You can find further guidance on training in the section - Staffing and training.

Polling station inspectors should receive the same training as polling station staff in order for them to be able to be deployed flexibly and carry out polling station duties if required. You should also provide an additional briefing for polling station inspectors, covering items that are specific to their role.

You should give both polling station staff and polling station inspectors a copy of the Commission’s handbook for polling station staff and polling station quick guide, and instruct them to read both ahead of polling day and to bring their copies with them on polling day itself. You should give spare copies of the handbook and quick guide to polling station inspectors that they can provide to polling stations in the event of polling station staff forgetting to bring their copies on polling day.

Polling station handbook – UK Parliamentary election (PDF) - We are updating this resource to reflect new measures introduced by the Elections Act 2022. It will be available again once the updates have been completed. If you are running a UK Parliamentary by-election you should contact your local Commission team for support and advice.

Polling station quick guide – UK Parliamentary election (PDF) - We are updating this resource to reflect new measures introduced by the Elections Act 2022. It will be available again once the updates have been completed.

Last updated: 30 May 2023