Time Off for Voting on Federal Election Day: October 19, 2015

The Canada Elections Act (the “Act”) states that everyone who is eligible to vote in a federal election is entitled to three consecutive hours during voting hours to cast their ballot on election day. In British Columbia, polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Eligible voters are Canadian citizens who are at least 18 years old on election day.

If an employee’s work schedule does not allow for three consecutive hours to vote, employers must provide time off with pay. Employers cannot impose a penalty or deduct pay from an employee who is taking time off to vote in accordance with the Act.

The Act allows employers to unilaterally schedule this time off at a time that is convenient for the employer. For example, if an employee is scheduled to work from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., the employer can decide whether to allow the employee to leave one hour early at 4:00 p.m. or to start work at 10:00 a.m. in order to provide the three consecutive hours for voting purposes. In this example, only one hour at the start or end of the shift would be paid time off.

Exception: Employers in the transportation industry do not have to provide three hours off from work if the following conditions apply:

  1. The employer is a company that transports goods or passengers by land, air or water;
  2. The employee is employed outside his or her polling division;
  3. The employee is employed in the operation of a means of transportation; and,
  4. The time off cannot be allowed without interfering with the transportation service.

It is an offence under the Act for employers to fail to provide time off for voting or to reduce an employee’s pay where the employee has been provided time off to vote. The maximum penalty for violations is a fine of up to $2,000, imprisonment of up to three months, or both.

Employers anticipating an impact on their business should consider prior to October 19 how best to schedule any required time off for voting purposes. Although employers cannot require employees to vote at the advance polls on October 9, 10, 11 and 12, employers may wish to encourage employees to take advantage of such polls.

Questions relating to the content of the article may be directed to Lindsie Thomson.