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Manitoba employer obligations on election day

Of the eight Canadian provinces and territories that have passed laws calling for fixed-date elections, five provincial / territorial general elections are to be held in October every four years.

The next provincial election in Manitoba is scheduled for Tuesday, October 4, 2011. Employers have certain obligations to employees under the Manitoba Election Act. The writs have been issued for Manitoba’s 40th general election providing for a 28-day election campaign. The lawn signs are out and political parties in Manitoba have kicked their campaigns into high gear.

Under the Act, an employee who is eligible to vote must be allowed three consecutive hours for the purpose of casting his or her vote. Employers whose employees have three consecutive hours of their own time available during polling hours need not offer additional time for voting. If, however, an employee does not have this time available, the employer, upon request, must allow the employee enough time off with pay to provide those three consecutive hours to vote.

This year, voting hours on election day will be from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. local time. Employers have the right to decide when during the day is most convenient for granting any necessary time off. It is also important to note that employers are not required to take into account an employee’s travel time to vote.

Employers may not make deductions from an employee’s pay, require the employee to take a vacation day or sick day, or otherwise impose any penalty for the time taken off work by an employee to vote.

The Act also provides for unpaid, job-protected leave for employees who wish to serve as a candidate, as an election official or enumerator or as an election volunteer. The employee must request such leave in writing at least five days before the leave is to begin. A request for a leave may be made either before or after an election is called. The leave must not begin:

(a) In the case of a fixed-date election,

(i) Until 75 days before election day, for a returning officer, assistant returning officer or enumerator,

(ii) Until 40 days before election day, for a revising officer or revising agent, or

(iii) Until the election is called, for a candidate or election volunteer, or for an election official other than a returning officer, assistant returning officer, revising officer or revising agent; or

(b) In the case of any other election, until the election is called.

The employer may require the employee to provide written confirmation that he or she is eligible for the leave. A leave for a returning officer or assistant returning officer must not extend beyond the day a candidate is declared elected. The leave for any other election official, enumerator or election volunteer must not extend beyond election day and, in the case of an election official or enumerator, ends when the person’s duties under the Act are completed.

However, the request must include a statement that, within three days after receiving the request, the employer has the right to apply to the Manitoba Labour Board for an exemption to the requirement to grant the leave. An employer may request an exemption from the requirement to grant a leave under the Act, if the employer believes that the leave would be seriously detrimental to the employer’s operations.

The penalty for preventing an employee from voting, impeding or otherwise interfering with an employee’s right to vote is a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for a term of not more than one year, or both.

Yosie Saint-Cyr
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Managing Editor

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Yosie Saint-Cyr

Managing Editor at First Reference Inc.
Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B., is a trained lawyer called to the Quebec bar in 1988 and is still a member in good standing. She practiced business, employment and labour law until 1999. For over 15 years, Yosie has been the Managing Editor of the following publications, Human Resources Advisor, Human Resources PolicyPro, HRinfodesk and Accessibility Standards PolicyPro from First Reference. Yosie is one of Canada’s best known and most respected HR authors, with an extensive background in employment and labour across the country. Read more
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