Co-Authored by Heather Lovell & Megan Martins
Canada’s federal election is finally upon us: Monday, October 19, 2015! Employers should be aware of their obligations to employees on Election Day, pursuant to the Canada Elections Act.
In Ontario, Election Day voting hours are 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Every employee who is a Canadian citizen and is 18 years of age or older is an “elector” who is entitled to vote. Electors are entitled to three consecutive hours of free time on Election Day to cast their vote.
1. Time Off
If an elector’s hours of work allow for three consecutive voting hours, their employer is not required to alter those hours in any way – it is the elector’s responsibility to visit a polling station during non-working hours. For example, Ontario employees who work 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Election Day are not entitled to any time off, since they already have three consecutive hours in which to vote after 5:00 p.m.
Conversely, where an elector’s hours of work do not allow for three consecutive voting hours, their employer is required to provide them with three consecutive hours within the work shift. Employers have discretion to decide which hours to provide for voting. For example, an Ontario employee who works 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Election Day may be granted three consecutive hours at the beginning, middle or end of their shift, depending on which time is most convenient for the employer.
It is important to note that electors are entitled to their regular pay on voting day for the regular hours they would have worked had they not taken time off to vote. Employers are not permitted to make any deduction in an elector’s pay for the time that the employer is required to provide as per the Canada Elections Act. Employers who pay an elector less than the amount that the elector would have otherwise earned are deemed to have made a deduction from the elector’s pay.
In addition to prohibited deductions in pay, employers cannot interfere with the granting of an elector’s three consecutive hours for voting by way of intimidation, undue influence or any other means.
An employer who fails to allow time to vote or makes deductions from an elector’s wages for same is guilty of an offence and, if convicted, is liable to a fine of not more than $2,000 or imprisonment for up to three months, or both. Obviously, it is in every employer’s interests to be mindful of their obligations on Election Day in order to avoid these penalties.
For more information about the upcoming election, including polling station locations and identification requirements, please visit the Elections Canada website.