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Employee Voting & Time Off

As you probably know, there is a federal election in Canada on Monday, October 21. Almost all employees who work in Ontario (regulated under both provincial and federal employment law) are entitled to specific time off to be able to vote on Election Day. Here’s a reminder of how that obligation will play out on the 21st.

Of course, to vote in Canada, an employee must be over the age of 18 and a Canadian citizen. In Ontario, voting times on October 21 is from 9:30am to 9:30pm (and there may be some rare cases where voting is extended due to unforeseen circumstances).w

Employees who are eligible to vote are allowed three (3) consecutive hours off in order to vote, and employers are not allowed to deduct pay or impose a penalty on an employee for their absence during that time.

The one type of employee who is exempt from this rule are employees of a company that transports goods or passengers by land, air or water who is employed outside their polling division in the operation of a means of transportation, if the additional time off for voting cannot be allowed without interfering with the transportation service.

Some employers choose different ways to manage their business in order to comply with this statutory obligation. Some choose to allow employees to leave early for the day, others may schedule employees differently on the 21st to ensure that they do not work  before 12:30pm or past 6:30pm, while others still may provide a long lunch break to allow the employee to vote. The key is to be aware of your obligations and be reasonable when managing the business.

Employers who do not comply with election laws risk of facing punishment under the law, ranging from a fine to even jail time. If your workplace is unionized, your team may have additional rights on election days, so be sure to consult all workplace policies and collective agreements.

If you have any questions relating to this article or wish to discuss your particular concerns, you may reach the author atjborrelli@kmblaw.com or 905.276.0433This article is provided for general information purposes and should not be considered a legal opinion. Clients are advised to obtain legal advice based on their specific situations.

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