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Employers’ obligations at federal election time and risk of non-compliance

There have been some advance polls but May 2, 2011, is the official day when Canadians (hopefully more than predicted) will be voting in the federal election. Do you know what duties you have as an employer?

The Canada Elections Act provides that employees, who qualify as electors in a federal election, are entitled to three consecutive hours, while the polls are open, during which to vote. If an employee’s hours of work do not allow for this, the employer must grant the employee enough time off, with pay, to make up the three consecutive hours. (The period of time is at the employer’s discretion.)

may-2-vote-canadaImportant to note is that employers cannot deduct the pay of an employee or impose any penalty whatsoever for the time taken by an employee to vote.

For example, if the polls close at 7:00 p.m. and the normal workday ends at 5:00 p.m., the employee must be granted one hour of paid leave to meet the requirements of the Act.

Employers who do not comply with these requirements risk severe penalties, including fines of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment for up to three months for failing to allow employees adequate time off or for making a deduction from their wages for time off. An employer who intimidates or otherwise interferes with employees’ right to a minimum voting time is liable to a fine of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment for up to five years.

Who can vote? Any employee who is a Canadian citizen and is 18 years of age or older on polling day.

What are the electoral districts? Find out here.

What are the current party standings? Find out here.

When is voting taking place in your jurisdiction?

  • In Newfoundland, Atlantic or Central time zone, from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • In the Eastern time zone, from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
  • In the Mountain time zone, from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • In the Pacific time zone, from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Interesting tidbit: Canada has had 40 federal general elections since Confederation. During the first election after Confederation, there were only 181 seats to fill. Today there are 308 seats to fill.

Democracy can only work if people voice their opinions. Get out and vote!

Happy voting everyone.

Christina Catenacci
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Editor

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Christina Catenacci

Christina Catenacci, BA, LLB, LLM, was called to the Ontario Bar in 2002 and has since been a member of the Ontario Bar Association. Christina worked as an editor with First Reference between February 2005 and August 2015, working on publications including The Human Resources Advisor (Ontario, Western and Atlantic editions), HRinfodesk discussing topics in Labour and Employment Law. Christina has decided to pursue a PhD at the University of Western Ontario beginning in the fall of 2015. Read more
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2 thoughts on “Employers’ obligations at federal election time and risk of non-compliance
  • Hi George,

    Thanks for your comment. As you rightly noted, some employees take advantage of this situation and leave the workplace without voting. That is an interesting way of dealing with the issue…


  • George McDonald says:

    HR departments can establish policies to require employees who wish to vote to do so at an advance poll. If employees clearly sign this as part of their employment contract the company has no obligation to the employee. As an HR professional I have seen many a time employees use this to get off work early without voting. I think if employees sign off their rights we can avoid this situation