General obligations of employers on election day
On election day in Quebec, employers must ensure that their employees have at least four consecutive hours free in which to vote during the hours when the polling stations are open (i.e., from 9:30 A.M. to 8:00 P.M.), not counting the time normally allowed by the employer for meals.
So if your employees start work after 1:30 P.M. or end work before 4:00 P.M., you are not required to give them time off to vote. On the other hand, if your employees’ work schedule does not afford them the minimum time required by law, you must grant them the necessary time off in order to ensure that they have four consecutive hours in which to vote. It is up to you to determine at what time of day you wish to grant the time off.
No deduction of wages or penalty may be imposed on the employee on account of the time off granted.
Election Act, RSQ, c E-3.3, s 335
Failure to comply with these requirements can result in harsh penalties. Employers who contravene the rules described above are liable to the following fines:
- If the employer is an individual, a fine of $1,000 to $10,000 for a first offence and $10,000 to $30,000 for any subsequent offence within ten years.
- If the employer is a corporation, a fine of $5,000 to $30,000 for a first offence and $20,000 to $60,000 for any subsequent offence within ten years.
An employer who uses his authority or influence to induce any of his employees to refuse to become an election officer or to abandon that office after accepting it will also be subject to these fines.
In addition, an employee who believes that his or her rights described above have been contravened may file a complaint with the Commission des normes du travail.
Election Act, RSQ, c E-3.3, s 556