A federal general election is scheduled to take place on October 21, 2019. Employers must be mindful of their obligation to ensure that employees are afforded sufficient time off from work to cast their ballots.
The Canada Elections Act entitles persons to three consecutive hours off from work – between the hours of 7:00 am and 7:00 pm – to exercise their voting rights on election day.
What does this mean for employers?
It is important to note that this entitlement does not require an employer to provide all their employees with three hours off work. It is only in situations where an employee’s schedule does not allow for three consecutive hours free from work that a modification to the work schedule is required. For example, employees who are not scheduled to commence work until 10:00 am (or later) and employees who are scheduled to finish work at 4:00 pm (or earlier) will not require any time off to vote.
A number of my employees will require time off to vote. Do I have flexibility in how I modify their schedules to accommodate this?
Yes. Employers have the discretion to modify an employee’s schedule in a manner that is most convenient. The employer can schedule time off for voting at the beginning of a shift, in the middle of a shift or at the end of a shift.
Am I obligated to give all of my employees this time off to vote?
No – there are some exceptions to the requirement. For example, the obligations do not apply to transportation companies and their employees operating a means of transportation outside their polling division if the time off to vote cannot be allowed without interfering with the transportation service.
Are employees entitled to be paid if they take this time off?
Yes – an employee who is given time off in these circumstances is entitled to all regular wages in respect of time off work in order to vote. To use an example, if an employee is scheduled to work from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm, he or she may be allowed to leave work at 4:00 pm on election day in order to ensure three consecutive hours to cast a ballot. Despite having left work early, the employee is entitled to wages for their full shift in this scenario.
If you have any questions about your rights and obligations, or any general employment law queries, contact any one of the lawyers in our Labour + Employment Practice Group and they would be pleased to assist you.