With the upcoming federal election on October 21, employees should be aware of their rights to cast their vote on election day.
Under the Canada Elections Act, everyone who is eligible to vote (Canadian citizens who are 18 years of age or older) must have three consecutive hours to cast their vote on election day.
For example, if voting hours at your polling stations are 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and you usually work from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., your hours of work will not allow three consecutive hours for voting. Therefore, in order to provide you with three consecutive hours to vote, your employer can either allow you to arrive late (at 12:30 p.m.) or let you leave early (at 6:30 p.m.). Your employer can also give you three hours off during the work day, however they have the right to decide when you are allowed to take off these three hours. On the other hand, if you work from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m, your employer is not obligated to provide time off from work because there are three consecutive hours after the end of the employee’s work day when the polls are open.
Your right to three consecutive hours off work is particularly important if you are often called into work on last minute notice or work more than 8 hours a day since your employer may be especially unwilling to accommodate your request for time off. However, regardless of the nature of your work schedule, you are still entitled to three consecutive hours off work to vote.
Your employer is not allowed to deduct pay or impose a penalty for taking time off to vote. If an employer refuses to provide time off, reduces your pay, or imposes any other form of penalty, they could be fined up to $2,000, receive three months imprisonment, or both.
In order to ensure that you are protected from reprisal for exercising your right to time off, we recommend that you make your request for time off in writing so that there is no ambiguity surrounding the reasons behind you request.
It should be noted that the right to three consecutive hours of voting does not apply to employees of certain transportation companies who are employed outside of their polling division in the operation of a means of transportation, if the additional time off cannot be allowed without interfering with the transportation service.