By Daniel Sorensen
So can you get time off from work to vote in the upcoming federal election? Subject to limited exceptions as explained below, the answer is generally yes.
Under the Canada Elections Act, any employee that is eligible to vote is entitled to have up to three consecutive hours away from work in order to cast their vote on election day. Poll hours will vary by time zone, but in every riding polls will be open for voting for 12 hours. In most of British Columbia, the polls will be open from 7 am to 7 pm.
So how does this work in practice? It is best explained using an example. If polls are open from 7 am to 7 pm, and an employee is scheduled to work 10 am to 6 pm, then the employee is not entitled to any further time off because the employee has three consecutive hours to vote from 7 am to 10 am. However, if an employee is scheduled to work from 9 am to 5 pm, then the employer can provide the employee with his or her three consecutive hours for voting by doing one of the following:
- allowing the employee to start at 10 am so that he or she has three consecutive hours to vote from 7 am to 10 am;
- allowing the employee to leave early at 4 pm so that he or she has three consecutive hours to vote from 4 pm to 7 pm;
- changing the employee’s scheduled hours of work to give him or her three consecutive hours to vote; or
- giving the employee three consecutive hours during the work day to vote.
Where an employee is entitled to time off to vote, employers have the right to decide when an employee gets time off to vote. However, employers are not allowed to reduce the pay of an employee or otherwise penalize an employee for taking time off for voting. As such, an employer must pay an employee what he or she would have earned during the time allowed off for voting.
Employers who do not comply with the Canada Elections Act can be penalized. Such penalties can include a fine of up to $2,000 and imprisonment for up to three months.
It should be noted that the above law does not apply to some employers in the transportation industry where the following is true:
- the employer is a company that transports goods or passengers by land, air or water;
- the employee is employed outside his or her polling area;
- the employee is employed in the operation of a means of transportation, and
- the time off cannot be allowed without interfering with the transportation service.