It's election time once again in Ontario! The campaign has begun and election day is on June 7, 2018.
In the days leading up to the election, questions often arise about the rights of employees to have time free from work to cast their votes or perform other election-related duties. This bulletin summarizes employee rights and employer obligations during Ontario's provincial elections.
To be an eligible voter, an employee must be a Canadian citizen who is 18 years of age on the day of the vote and a resident of Ontario. There are special rules that allow eligible electors who are temporarily living outside of Ontario to vote.
Consecutive Hours Off for Voting
Employees who wish to vote are entitled to three consecutive hours off work during voting hours to cast their ballots. Ontario's voting hours are 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time).
An employer does not have an obligation to provide time off work where the employee has three consecutive hours free from work during voting hours. For example, an employee who works from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EST has a three consecutive hour period (between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. EST) to vote. So that employee need not be provided with time off work to vote.
Where an employee's hours of work do not allow for three consecutive hours to vote, an employee may request and an employer must grant additional time off for voting such that the employee has three consecutive hours free from work during voting hours. This additional time to vote may be granted at a time that best suits the employer.
For example, an employee who works from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. EST does not have three consecutive hours free from work during voting hours. If the employee requests time off to vote, the employer may permit the employee to start late at 12:00 p.m. EST, thus granting the employee a three consecutive hour period between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. EST to vote. In the alternative, the employer may permit the employee to leave work early at 6:00 p.m. EST, granting the employee three consecutive hours to vote between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. EST.
Time Off with Pay
Where an employer is required to give additional time off for voting, this additional time off shall be a leave with pay. The employer shall not make any deductions or impose any penalty on employees who must be granted additional time off to vote.
Leave for Returning Officers and Poll Officials
An employee who is a returning officer or has been appointed to be a poll official must also be granted a leave to perform his or her duties. To be eligible for the leave, the employee must request the leave at least seven days before the leave begins. While there is no obligation for the employer to pay an employee while they are on this type of leave, the employer cannot dismiss or otherwise penalize the employee for requesting this leave, including by deducting days from their vacation entitlement.