The Provincial election is fast approaching. Understanding the scope of employee rights can assist employers in minimizing the impact voting may have on the workplace on May 17, 2005.
Employees eligible to vote are entitled to four consecutive hours off work during voting hours on election day. Voting hours are from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Pacific daylight time.
In the event an employee’s work schedule does not allow for four consecutive hours off from work during voting hours, the employer must provide the employee time off from work. The employer has the right to unilaterally schedule this time off for a time that is convenient for the employer. The employer must not deduct pay or exact any penalty for the time off from work.
There are two notable exceptions to the requirement to provide time off from work. First, individuals employed in remote locations who would be unable to reasonably reach any voting place during voting hours are not entitled to time off for voting. Second, employers may decline to provide employees with time off work for voting if they have a reasonable justification for so doing. Given the importance of voting, employers should only rely on this exception where providing time off would risk employee or public safety or where there are other similarly important reasons.
The Elections BC fact sheet, found at http://elections.bc.ca/elections/ge2005/vopps.htm, suggests the use of advance voting (available May 11 to May 14, noon to 9:00pm) and cooperation between employers and employees to ensure that all individuals have the opportunity to vote without disrupting business operations.
Employers anticipating a disruption to their business on election day should encourage employees to take advantage of advance polling and consider, in advance of May 17, 2004, how to best schedule any required employee time off from work.