Manitoba heads to the polls for its 41st general election on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. The well-informed employer will take note of and fulfill its obligations to employees on voting day.

Under The Elections Act of Manitoba, an employee who is an eligible voter is allowed three consecutive hours away from work to cast a ballot on voting day. The polls are open from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm on election day, so if an employee normally works from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, the three consecutive hours off of work are easily found between 4:00 pm and 8:00 pm. If an employee’s work shift does not provide for three consecutive hours off of work during voting hours on election day, the employee is entitled to the time off and the employer, at its discretion, must accommodate the request, with pay. This means that the employer must grant the employee’s request for three hours of paid time off work to vote, but the employer is entitled to select when the employee may take the time off to vote.

It’s important for an employer to understand and to observe its obligations to employees on election day in Manitoba. The consequences of being uninformed or of ignoring the rules can be painful. Denying an employee the time off work to vote, not paying wages for the requested time away, or penalizing a worker for taking the time off are considered offences under The Elections Act. Penalties for such offences under the Act may include a fine of up to $2000 or even a prison term.

Know your obligations as an employer, accommodate the rights of your employees to vote on election day, and don’t forget to vote!