As everyone will now be aware, a Federal election will be held on Monday, January 23, 2006. This summary provides employers with a thumbnail sketch of relevant employment issues relating to election day.
In British Columbia, election polls are open in the Pacific time zone from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. In the Mountain time zone, polls are open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Three Consecutive Hours
To ensure that qualified electors (Canadian citizens who are 18 years of age and older) have an opportunity to vote, the Canada Elections Act (the “Act”) requires an employer to provide an employee with three consecutive hours during voting hours to vote.
Where an employee has three consecutive hours available that fall within voting hours and outside scheduled work hours, an employer has no obligation to provide paid time off from work. For example, where an employee works from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., he or she has 4 consecutive hours after to work available to vote as the polls do not close until 7:00 p.m.
On the other hand, if an employee’s work schedule on election day prevents him or her from having three consecutive hours off work to vote, the employer must provide time off with pay to accommodate voting. For example, an employee who works from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. will have only one hour to vote (6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.). The employer must therefore arrange a convenient time to allow the employee the necessary time off, either by allowing the worker to leave work by 4:00 p.m. or by providing three consecutive hours off at some point during the work day to allow the employee to vote.
The Act does not require an employer to make additional allowances for employee time to travel to or from a polling station.
The Act prohibits employers from:
- making any deduction from an employee’s wages because the employer has allowed time off to vote; or
- interfering with the exercise of an employee’s statutory right to time off to vote by means of intimidation or exercising undue influence.
Employers should be aware that the voting requirements for Provincial elections are different than those governing Federal elections. Provincial elections are governed by the BC Elections Act, which requires that employees have 4 consecutive hours during voting hours to vote.