In advance of the federal election on October 21, 2019, employers are reminded of their obligation to provide employees with time off to vote on polling day.
Three Consecutive Hours for Voting
The federal Canada Elections Act provides that all employees who are “electors” (i.e. Canadian citizens 18 years of age or older) are entitled to three consecutive hours to cast their vote on polling day.
If an employee already has three consecutive hours off of work while the polls are open, employers are not required to provide time off work. For example, if voting hours on polling day are from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and an employee works from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., the employee has more than three consecutive hours to vote after the end of his or her work day and no time off is required.
However, if an employee’s work schedule does not allow for three consecutive hours off while the polls are open, employers must provide the employee with time off so that they have three consecutive hours to vote. This would occur where, for example, the employee works from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the Pacific Time Zone, where polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Employers are entitled to decide when the time off will be given. In the above example, they could allow employees to start at 10:00 a.m. or leave at 4:00 p.m., or they could provide employees with three hours off during the day.
The voting hours across Canada for the 2019 federal election are below:
Time Zone Voting Hours (Local Time) Newfoundland Time 8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. Atlantic Time 8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time 9:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. Central Time 8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. Mountain Time (and Saskatchewan) 7:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
No Pay Deductions or Penalties Due to Absence
Employers cannot make any deduction from an employee’s pay for the time they take to vote, nor can they impose any sort of penalty on the employee. If the employee is paid less than they would have been had they continued to work, the employer will be deemed to have made a deduction from the employee’s pay. This is the case regardless of how the employee is paid. For instance, if an employee is paid on a piece-work basis, the employer still cannot pay them less than they would have earned had they remained at work.
Employers cannot interfere with the employee’s entitlement to time off to vote, whether by intimidation, undue influence, or any other means.
Transportation Industry Exemption
Transportation industry employers are exempt from the requirement to provide time off in situations where the employee operates a means of transportation outside of his or her polling division and providing time off would interfere with the transportation service.
Consequences of Failing to Provide Time Off for Voting
Employers who fail to provide time off for voting or who reduce an employee’s pay where time off has been provided face a maximum penalty of $2,000 and/or three months’ imprisonment.