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Ontario 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 Ontario is scheduled for Thursday, October 6, 2011. Employers have certain obligations to employees under the Ontario Election Act. On September 7, 2011, the month-long campaign for voters’ hearts and minds was officially underway. Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty asked Lieutenant-Governor David C. Onley to officially end the 39th legislative session and sign the election writ. That formality now complete, the lawn signs are coming out and political parties in Ontario 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 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 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 returning officers or poll officials. The employee must request such leave at least seven days before the leave is to begin. The Act does not limit the duration of such leave and the employer cannot request the employee take vacation time. The employer shall not dismiss or otherwise penalize the employee because the employee has exercised the right to be granted leave.

The penalty for preventing an employee from voting, impeding or otherwise interfering with an employee’s right to vote is a fine of up to $5,000. If an employer is convicted of this offence and a judge finds that the offence was committed knowingly, the employer will be liable to a fine of up to $25,000 or imprisonment up to two years less a day, or both.

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

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Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B. Managing Editor

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 18 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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