In case you missed it, a federal election is coming up. Election Day is Monday, October 19, 2015.  Finally, after the longest campaign in Canadian history, we will get our chance to vote.  All the polls suggest we will end up with a minority government and we may just have to do it all over again next year.  That makes it all the more important for each of us to get out to vote.  In a close election, with “first past the post voting”, there will be many three-way races determined by slim margins.  Besides, we are fortunate to have the right to vote – we should honour past generations and celebrate our democracy by taking the time to exercise our right.

Employees who are 18 years old and Canadian citizens may have the right to have time away from work vote.  Employers have an obligation to ensure that employees have sufficient time.  Employers should embrace this as a moral obligation.  It is also a legal obligation set out in the Canada Elections Act.

Employees are allowed up to three consecutive hours to vote on Election Day while polls are open.  There are new voting hours in place for Eastern Canada to reduce the chance of early results influencing the vote in Western Canada.  As such, polls are projected to be open from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

What this means is that any employee who has a work day that starts after 12:30 p.m. or ends before 6:30 p.m. does not require any additional time off to vote.  As such, most employers will not have to make special arrangements.  Only those employees with, for example, 12-hour day shifts or shifts that start later in the morning are likely to require additional time off to vote.  To be clear, employers do not have to give three hours off, but simply have to allow enough time to create three consecutive hours.  For example, an employee whose shift ends at 7 p.m. could be allowed to leave 30 minutes early if she requests the time to vote.

Employees who request time off cannot be docked pay for the time they require and cannot be penalized in any other way.

Employers in the transportation industry do not have to grant time off if the employee is working outside his/her riding and time off would interfere with the transportation service.  It would be useful for employers to identify these situations and encourage affected employees to take advantage of advance polls, which are available for everyone.

Advance polls are scheduled for October 9, 10, 11, and 12, 2015 – employees should be encouraged to confirm the time and place if they wish to vote in advance.

In the extraordinary event that an employer does not allow time off or discourages employees from taking their rightful time to vote, there may be fines of up to $2,000 per infraction or even imprisonment.

Employers should encourage their employees to vote and should ensure they have enough time to do so.