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Employer obligations and the right to vote

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The Canadian federal election is scheduled for October 21, 2019. Under the Elections Act (Canada), Canadian citizens who are at least 18 years of age have the right to vote. If employees’ hours of work do not allow them three consecutive hours of time to go and vote when the polls are open on polling day, the employer must provide them with paid time off so that they are allowed three consecutive hours to vote on polling day. This means that working hours and voting hours overlap such that the employee does not have three consecutive hours off to vote. Moreover, if an employee has three consecutive voting hours that fall outside of working hours, an employer does not have to provide time off to vote.

When the three hours to vote is made available and scheduled is at the convenience of the employer.

Voting hours at polling places for each time zone across Canada:

  • Newfoundland time: 8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
  • Atlantic Time: 8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
  • Eastern Time: 9:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
  • Central Time*: 8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
  • Mountain Time*: 7:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
  • Pacific Time: 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.

*In Saskatchewan, when daylight saving time is in effect for the rest of the country, voting hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (local time).

An employer cannot make a deduction from the pay of or impose a penalty to an employee for lawfully taking time away from work to vote. The Act specifically prohibits employers from interfering, by intimidation, undue influence or by any other means, with an elector’s right to have three consecutive hours to vote on polling day.

Employers who do not comply with the Elections Act (Canada) requirements run the risk of facing significant fines or imprisonment, or both.

Note, that the three hour time off to vote does not apply to employees of a company that transports goods or passengers by land, air or water who are employed outside their polling division in the operation of a means of transportation, if the time off cannot be allowed without interfering with the transportation service.

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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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