Employees Entitlement to Time Off for Voting this Federal Election
Election day is set for October 21, 2019 and with that comes an obligation, in some circumstances, for employers to provide their employees with time off to vote.
The Canada Elections Act (the “Act”) requires that all eligible voters be entitled to three consecutive hours on election day to cast their vote. Eligible voters include all Canadian citizens who, on polling day, are 18 years of age or older.
Given this three hour entitlement for voting, employers must be aware that if an employee’s work schedule does not allow for three consecutive hours within which they can vote, the employer is required to provide the necessary time off work, with pay, to allow for three hour entitlement, if requested by the employee. The time of day that this time off is granted is at the convenience of the employer.
The voting hours for the upcoming election are as follows:
|Time Zone||Voting Hours|
|Newfoundland Time||8:30 a.m - 8:30 p.m.|
|Atlantic Time||8:30 a.m - 8:30 p.m.|
|Eastern Time||9:30 a.m - 9:30 p.m.|
|Central Time*||8:30 a.m - 8:30 p.m.|
|Mountain Time*||7:30 a.m - 7:30 p.m.|
|Pacific Time||7:00 a.m - 7:00 p.m.|
* In Saskatchewan, when daylight saving time is in effect for the rest of the country, voting hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (local time).
If an employee located in Alberta is required to work from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on election day the employer is not required to provide any time off work, as the employee has over three consecutive hours to vote between 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. In contrast, if that employee is required to work 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., the employee will not have three consecutive hours within which to vote. In this circumstance, if the employee requests time to vote, an employer would have three options:
- Allow the employee to leave early, at 4:30 p.m.;
- Allow the employee to arrive late, at 10:30 a.m.; or
- Give the employee three consecutive hours off to vote during the day.
Pay Deductions and Prohibitions
It is important for employers to be aware that the Act bars an employer from deducting pay or imposing any other penalty on the employee for taking time off work to vote as contemplated under the Act. Regardless of how the employee is paid (hourly, piece-work or other basis), improper withholding occurs when an employee who takes time off to vote is paid less than what they would have regularly been paid had they not taken that time off.
Employers should also be cognizant that the Act prohibits an employer from intimidating, unduly influencing or interfering, by any other means, in the employee’s entitlement to three consecutive hours for voting.
Employers who do not meet the obligations set out above may be fined up to $2,000, or imprisoned for up to three months, or both.
The three hour voting entitlement does not apply to employees of transportation companies who are employed outside of their polling division and where providing the time off work would interfere with the transportation services.
Advanced polling stations are open Friday, October 11, 2019 to Monday, October 14, 2019 from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. An employer is not obligated to provide time off to vote on an advanced polling day. As such, in an effort to reduce employee requests for time off on election day some employers opt to circulate information about the advanced polling dates. However, advising employees of advanced polling dates does not relieve employers of their obligations to provide the requisite time off on election day.