It's election time once again! Provincial and territorial elections are taking place across the country in October and November in Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan and Yukon.

In the days leading up to elections, questions often arise about the rights of employees to have time free from work to cast their votes. This bulletin summarizes employee rights and employer obligations with respect to voting time during provincial and territorial elections. It summarizes the rules in all Canadian provinces and territories, whether or not they are holding elections this fall.

Eligibility To be an eligible voter, an employee must be a Canadian citizen who is 18 years of age on the day of the vote. In addition, the employee must have been a resident of the province or territory for minimum period of time prior to the day of the election. The residency period requirements are as follows:

40 days: New Brunswick 6 months: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan 12 months: Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Yukon Consecutive Hours Off for Voting Employees are entitled to a certain number of consecutive hours off work during voting hours to cast their ballots.  The following chart summarizes the consecutive hours to which an employee is entitled as well as the hours during which polls are open:

Click here to see table

An employer does not have an obligation to provide time off of work where the required number of consecutive hours falls outside an employee's hours of work and within the voting hours, being the time the polls are open.

However, where the hours of work do not allow for the required consecutive voting hours, an employer must grant additional time off for voting sufficient to provide the required consecutive voting hours to any employee who requests it.  This additional time may be granted at any time that is convenient for the employer.

Consider the Following Examples:

Employee 1 lives in Winnipeg, and works from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The employer would have no obligation to provide paid time off of work, even if requested, as Employee 1 has a consecutive three-hour period from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. during which he/she can vote.

Employee 2 lives in Toronto, and works from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. If requested by the employee, the employer must provide enough time off of work to allow a three-hour consecutive voting period. The employer could allow Employee 2 to start at 12 p.m., as this would provide a three-hour window between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. during which to vote. The employer could also allow Employee 2 to leave at 6 p.m., providing Employee 2 with a three-hour voting period between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Time Off with Pay

Where an employer is required to give additional time off for voting, it shall not impose any form of penalty or deduct any money from the employee's pay. Required voting time off is to be time off with pay.