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Employees entitled to time off to vote in federal election


October 22, 2019
By Stewart McKelvey LLP

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An elections Canada sign at an advance polling station in Halifax during the 2019 federal election. Photo: Wikimedia

With the federal election coming upon Oct. 21, 2019, it is a good time for a reminder of the employer obligations under the Canada Elections Act.

Employees who are eligible to vote (Canadian citizens who are 18 years of age or older) are entitled to have three consecutive hours while the polls are open in order to do so. Whether an employer is required to allow an employee time off from work to vote depends on the employee’s scheduled working hours and the available polling hours (which vary by region). Where an employer is required to allow such time off from work, it gets to choose the hours.

For example, let’s assume the available polling hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. If the employee is scheduled to work from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., then the employer is not required to provide time off. The employee has (more than) three consecutive hours to vote after work. However, if the employee is scheduled to work from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., then the employer is required to allow the employee additional time off such that the employee has three consecutive hours to vote. In that example, the employer could allow the employee to leave early at 5:30 p.m.

Where an employee is entitled to time off to vote in the federal election, the employer is not permitted to make a deduction from their pay or impose a penalty for that time. This means that the time off to vote must be paid as if the employee worked their full scheduled hours that day.

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Finally, please note that there is an exception for 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.