Voting Time: Employer Obligations on Election Day

September 1, 2021

With the upcoming Federal election on September 20, 2021, it is important for Employers to understand their statutory obligations to employees under the Canada Elections Act, SC 2000, c 9.

Requirement for Three Consecutive Hours Outside of Work to Vote

Employees who are qualified to vote (i.e., Canadian citizens who are at least 18 years old) are entitled under the Canada Elections Act to three consecutive hours outside of work to vote. If the employee’s hours of work do not permit the employee to have three consecutive hours outside of work to vote, the Employer is required to provide the employee with the minimum amount of paid time off to ensure that the employee has their three consecutive hours outside of work to vote. However, the Employer has the ability under the Canada Elections Act to determine what time the employee can have off to vote.

What does this mean for the Employer?  

Some employees may not be entitled to any paid time off from work because their work schedule provides them with three consecutive hours outside of work to vote while others may be entitled to time off with pay.

In determining whether any employees are entitled to paid time off work in accordance with the Canada Elections Act, Employers should consider how an employee’s hours of work coincide with voting hours. The voting hours for the Newfoundland and Atlantic time zones are from 8:30am to 8:30pm. For example:

  • If an employee in the Newfoundland or Atlantic time zone was scheduled to work from 9:00am to 5:00pm, the Employer would not be required to provide the employee with paid time off from work, as the employee has more than three consecutive hours to vote after work.
  • If an employee in the Newfoundland or Atlantic time zone was scheduled to work from 11:00am to 7:00pm, the Employer would be required to provide the employee with paid time off work, as the employee does not have three consecutive hours to vote, either before or after work.

Risks to the Employer for Failing to Comply  

It is important for Employers to understand that there are significant penalties for non-compliance with the Canada Elections Act.

An Employer who fails to give three consecutive hours of time off work to an employee or who deducts any amount from an employee’s wages for time off is liable to a fine of up to $2,000.00 and/or imprisonment for up to three months.

Furthermore, an Employer who intimidates or exerts undue influence on an employee or otherwise interferes with an employee’s right to take three consecutive hours of time off to vote is liable on summary conviction to a fine of up to $20,000.00 and/or imprisonment for up to one year and, on conviction or indictment, to a fine of up to $50,000.00 and/or imprisonment for up to five years.

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