With election day just around the corner, we thought it would be appropriate to provide an overview of employer obligations regarding time for voting.
The Canada Elections Act (the “Act”) governs an employer’s obligations with respect to allowing time to vote to employees in the upcoming federal election. Generally, a Canadian citizen who is 18 years of age or older is qualified as an elector and entitled to vote. Every employee who is an elector is entitled to three consecutive hours for the purpose of casting his or her vote during voting hours on polling day. If the employee’s hours of work do not allow for three consecutive hours, then the employer shall allow the employee to have the time for voting that is necessary in order to provide those three consecutive hours. The time that the employer shall allow for voting is at the employer’s convenience.
For example, if voting hours on polling day are from 9:30 am to 9:30 pm, and an employee’s hours of work for the day are 9 am to 5 pm, then that employee has more than three consecutive hours to vote after the end of his or her work day. In this case, the employer is not generally required to provide time for voting. On the other hand, if the employee’s hours of work are from 10 am to 7 pm, then the employer must provide the employee with time so that the employee has three consecutive hours in which to vote.
Employers are prohibited from:
- deducting any amounts from the employee’s pay for the time that the employer shall allow for voting;
- imposing a penalty for the time that the employer shall allow for voting; or
- interfering by intimidation, undue influence or by any other means with the granting to an elector in their employ of the three consecutive hours for voting.
If an employer pays the employee less than the amount that the employee would have earned on polling day had the employee continued to work during the time that the employer allowed for voting, then the employer is deemed to have made a deduction from the pay of the employee, regardless of the basis on which the employee is paid.
A failure to comply with the requirements of the Act may result in significant fines and even imprisonment.
Finally, it should be noted that the Act provides certain exemptions for employees in transportation companies.