With a Provincial election fast approaching, it is timely to review an employer’s obligation to provide employees with time off from work to vote.
For Provincial elections, the BC Elections Act requires that all employees entitled to vote be provided with 4 consecutive hours free from work without loss of pay while polls are open, to vote on election day. Voting hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Pacific daylight time.
In the event an employee’s work schedule does not allow for 4 consecutive hours free from work during voting hours, the employer must provide the employee time off from work sufficient to comprise the 4 consecutive hours. The employer must not deduct pay or exact any penalty for the time off from work.
The employer has the right to unilaterally schedule this time off at a time that is convenient for the employer. For example, if an employee is scheduled to work from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., the employer can decide whether to allow the employee to leave one hour early at 4:00 p.m. or to start work at noon in order to provide the 4 consecutive hours for voting purposes.
There are exceptions to the general requirement to provide time off from work. For example, individuals employed in remote locations who would be unable to reasonably reach any voting place during voting hours are not entitled to time off for voting.
The Elections BC website suggests the use of advance voting (available May 8th to May 11th, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.) and cooperation between employers and employees to ensure that all individuals have the opportunity to vote without disrupting business operations.
Employers anticipating a disruption to their business on election day should consider how to best schedule any required employee time off for voting purposes prior to May 14th, and encourage employees to take advantage of advance polling.