Employers Take Note: Employees Entitled to Paid Time Off to Vote in Upcoming Municipal Election
Date: October 5, 2022
Ontario-wide municipal elections will be held on Monday, October 24, 2022, and voting hours will run from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Employers should be aware that under the Municipal Elections Act, 1996 (Act), all employees who are eligible to vote in the election are entitled to three consecutive hours during voting hours on election day to cast their vote. In some circumstances, this may require employers to provide employees with paid time off to vote.
To be eligible to vote, an employee must be a Canadian citizen, be at least 18 years of age, and meet certain residency or property ownership or tenancy conditions.
Where an employee’s hours of work prevent them from having the three consecutive voting hours required by the Act, the employee “is entitled to be absent from work for as long as is necessary to allow that amount of time.” The time off is paid. The time off is also to be timed to be as convenient as possible to the employer.
Where an employee’s hours of work do not prevent them from having the three consecutive voting hours required by the Act, there is no obligation to provide paid time off from work. The examples below illustrate this principle:
Example 1: Employee 1 works from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The employer would have no obligation to provide time off work because the voting hours continue for three consecutive hours after the end of Employee 1’s work day (from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.).
Example 2: Employee 2 works from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Employee 2’s hours of work prevent them from having the three consecutive voting hours required by the Act. Therefore, the employer must provide sufficient paid time off work to provide a voting period of three consecutive hours. The Act provides that the absence “shall be timed to suit the employer’s convenience as much as possible.” Therefore, the employer could allow Employee 2 to report to work one hour late (at 1:00 p.m.), as this would provide the employee with a three-hour block of time to vote during voting hours – i.e. from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Where an employer must provide time off to an employee so that they can vote, the employer may not make a deduction from pay nor impose any form of penalty. Rather, an employee must receive full pay for the day—this obligation would apply regardless of the basis upon which an employee is paid. For example, if an employee is paid on a piece-work basis, the employer must pay the amount that the employee would have earned had they actually worked the full day.
If you have any questions about your obligations in connection with the upcoming election, please feel free to contact your regular Hicks Morley lawyer.
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