What Election Day Means for Employers

Is there another election already? Of course there is!  Employers should be aware of their obligations to employees on Election Day, pursuant to the Canada Elections Act. as well as the Ontario's Elections Act.

1.       Time Off

Both Federal and Ontario election legislation requires that an employee be provided with time off work to vote, IF they will not otherwise have three consecutive hours within the time the polls are open to vote. 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.

2.       Pay

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. 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.

3.       Penalties

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, could face a fine or even imprisonment. Obviously, it is in every employer’s interests to be mindful of their obligations on Election Day in order to avoid these penalties.