Employer Obligations on Election Day

October 8, 2015

Monday, October 19, 2015 is Election Day for the upcoming federal election and is quickly approaching. Many employers are left wondering what their obligations are.

On Election Day, eligible voters will be able to cast their ballot between 8:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. The Canada Elections Act provides that all eligible voters are entitled to three (3) consecutive hours for the purposes of casting his/her vote.

As such, if an employee’s hours of work on Election Day are such that the employee does not have three (3) consecutive hours free to vote, then the employer is required to provide the employee with the necessary time off work with pay.

For example, if an employee is scheduled to work an eight (8) hour day (e.g. 9:00a.m. to 5:00p.m.), no time off work is required as the employee will have more than three (3) consecutive hours after work, while the polls are open, to exercise their right to vote. On the other hand, if an employee is scheduled to work a twelve (12) hour shift from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., the employer is required to provide the employee with three (3) consecutive hours within which to vote. When, during Election Day, the employee is granted time off to vote is at the discretion of the employer. For instance, the employer may permit the employee to leave work at 5:30 p.m. (two hours early) which would provide the employee three (3) consecutive hours while the polls are open to cast their ballot. Or it may be more convenient to the employer to provide the employee with a three (3) hour block of time during the employee’s shift. The choice is left to the employer.

While voters may choose to take advantage of advance voting between October 9 and 12, 2015, the choice to participate in the advance poll lies solely with the employee and cannot be imposed by the employer.

An employer who refuses to provide an employee with three (3) consecutive hours to vote on Election Day, reduces an employee’s pay for time off for voting, and/or who uses intimidation, undue influence or any other means to interfere with an employee’s right to time off for voting, commits an offence under the Canada Elections Act, the penalty of which is a fine of up to $2,000 or three (3) months’ imprisonment, or both.

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