Canada Heads to the Polls: Employers’ Obligation to Provide Paid Time Off to Vote
Date: September 9, 2021
A federal election has been called for September 20, 2021. As the candidates hit the campaign trail and Election Day rapidly approaches, in this FTR Now we provide guidance to employers on their obligations to their employees under the Canada Elections Act.
When do employers have to provide paid time off to vote?
Under the Canada Elections Act (Act), all employees who are “electors,” meaning Canadian citizens who are 18 years of age or older, are entitled to three consecutive hours on Election Day during voting hours to cast their vote.
An employer’s obligations under the Act are triggered where an employee’s hours of work prevent them from having three consecutive hours to vote. In this case, an employer must “allow the time for voting that is necessary to provide those three consecutive hours.” This time off, which is paid, can be provided at the convenience of the employer.
The applicable voting hours are determined by the time zone in which the electoral district lies:
|Time Zone||Voting Hours|
|Eastern||9:30 am – 9:30 pm|
|Central, Atlantic or Newfoundland||8:30 am – 8:30 pm|
|Mountain||7:30 am – 7:30 pm|
|Pacific||7:00 am – 7:00 pm|
For example, if Employee A works in St. John’s and their work day is from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, they do not have three consecutive hours off from work between 8:30 am and 8:30 pm, the voting hours in the Newfoundland time zone. Therefore, their employer must provide sufficient paid time off work to create that three-hour window. Since it can be provided at the convenience of the employer, Employee A could simply be permitted to leave work thirty minutes early, providing them with a three-hour block from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm.
An employer does not have an obligation under the Act, however, to provide paid time off work to vote where the employees have three consecutive voting hours that fall outside of their work hours. For example, if Employee A’s work hours were instead from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, their employer would have no obligation to provide paid time off to vote, as they have over three consecutive voting hours once their work day ends before the polls close in St. John’s.
What else should employers be aware of on Election Day?
Where an employer is required to provide time off to its employees so that they can vote, the employer may not make a deduction from pay, nor impose any other form of penalty, for the time that their employees are at the polls. Employees must receive full pay for the day, regardless of the basis upon which they are paid. This is particularly relevant for employers whose employees are paid on a piece-work or hourly basis. For example, if Employee A works on an hourly basis, they must be paid the amount that they would have earned had they actually worked the full day.
The Act also prohibits employers from interfering with their employees’ consecutive voting hours by intimidation, undue influence or other means.
What are the exceptions?
For employers who operate companies that transport goods or passengers by land, air or water, the obligation to provide three consecutive hours may not apply to some of their employees. Where employees are employed outside of their polling division in the operation of a means of transportation, and the time off cannot be provided without interfering with the transportation service, the paid time off requirement will not apply. Any electors affected by this rule should have the opportunity to vote at the advance polls in their electoral riding.
Should you have any questions or require further information about your obligations in connection with the upcoming election, please contact your regular Hicks Morley lawyer.
The article in this client update provides general information and should not be relied on as legal advice or opinion. This publication is copyrighted by Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP and may not be photocopied or reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without the express permission of Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP. ©