With a Federal election fast approaching, it is timely to review an employer’s obligation to provide employees with time off from work to vote.
For Federal elections, the Canada Elections Act requires that employees qualifying as “electors” be provided with three consecutive hours off work, while polls are open, during which to vote. There are some exceptions to this requirement for employers in the transportation industry. Employees who are 18 years of age or older and Canadian citizens are qualified electors.
In BC, polls are open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm in the Pacific Time Zone and 7:30 am to 7:30 pm in the Mountain Time Zone. Employers have the right to decide when during the polling period to allow employees the required time off to vote. If an employee’s hours of work do not allow for three consecutive hours off within the polling times, the employer is required to allow the employee sufficient paid time off to ensure that the required time is provided. For example, if the normal work day is a 10 hour shift from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm, employees in the Pacific Time Zone must be granted one hour of paid leave at the end of their shift to fulfil the requirement. However, if the normal work day ends at 4:00 pm or does not start until 10:00 am, then no paid time off is necessary.
The Canada Elections Act makes it an offence to fail to provide time off for voting or to reduce an employee’s pay for providing the required time off. It is also an offence for an employer to use intimidation, undue influence, or any other means to interfere with the granting of time off to vote. The penalties for these offences include fines and/or imprisonment.