On October 19, Canadians will go to the polls for our federal election. The Canada Elections Act requires employers throughout Canada to give their employees time off to vote. Under the Act, everyone eligible to vote must have three consecutive hours to cast his or her vote on Election Day. If an employee’s hours of work do not allow for three consecutive hours to vote during the electoral polling hours, the employer must give the employee time off to vote. The employee must be paid his or her regular wage during the time off for voting. Employers cannot require the employee to use a vacation day and are also prohibited from penalizing an employee in any way from taking time off to vote.
1. Time off Required
An employee resides in a riding that has voting hours from 8:30 am to 8:30 pm. The employee’s shift is 11:00 am to 7:00 pm. This employee does not have three consecutive hours off work to vote when the polls are open because the employee is only off work during polling hours for 5 hours in the morning and 1.5 hours in the afternoon. The employer, however, has the discretion to decide when the time off will be given and can require the employee to take 30 minutes off work to vote during the last 30 minutes of the employee’s shift (rather than 1.5 hours off in the morning) since that will be least disruptive to the employer.
2. Time off not Required
A different employee with the same employer and in the same riding has a shift from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. This employee has more than three consecutive hours after work to vote during polling hours. Accordingly, this employee does not have to be provided with time off to vote during the work day.
3. Options to consider
While employees have the right to three (3) consecutive hours to cast their vote on the 19th, there are advance polls available to all eligible voters on October 9, 10, 11 and 12 from noon to 8:00 pm. Employers cannot require and employee to use the advance polls, by providing advance poll information to employees as the availability, locations and times may be beneficial.
Also, eligible voters can register to vote by mail.
More details are available at Elections Canada
Employers who fail to give employees time off to vote or fail to pay employees as required by the Elections Act are in breach of the Act. Employers could face a fine of up to $2,000, three months imprisonment, or both for each violation of the Act.