With the upcoming elections, we thought it would be timely to remind you of your obligations and employers with respect to employees taking time off to vote.

The Canada Elections Act requires employers throughout Canada to give their employees time off to vote in the upcoming October 19, 2015 federal election.

Everyone eligible to vote must have three consecutive hours to cast their 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.

Two examples help illustrate when an employer is required to give an employee time off to vote.

1. Time off Required

An employee resides in a riding that has voting hours from 9:30 am to 9:30 pm. The employee's shift is 11 am to 7 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 1.5 hours in the morning and 2.5 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 am to 5 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.

Transportation Industry Exemption

An exemption applies if the employer is in the transportation industry. For the exemption to apply all four of the below criteria must be met:

  • The employer is a company that transports goods or passengers by land, air or water;
  • The employee is employed outside his or her polling division;
  • The employee is employed in the operation of a means of transportation; and
  • The time off cannot be allowed without interfering with the transportation service.

Penalties

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.