Ontario will have a election on Thursday June 2 – less than two weeks away – so now is as good a time as ever to think about employers’ obligations to employees on Voting Day.
Eligible voters are entitled to three consecutive hours off work during the time that their polling stations are open on election day (this does not apply to advance polls).
If an employee’s regular work schedule does provide them with that time off, the employer must give the employee paid time off work to vote. Yes, this is a very brief but paid leave for the employee.
The timing of the leave is at the discretion of the employer and typically only minor adjustments to schedules are required. If an employee’s polling station is open from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. but they are off of work by 6:00pm, the employee is not entitled to any paid time off. But if the employee’s regular schedule is, for example, 11:00am to 7:00pm, then the Employer can decide whether to allow the employee to come in late at 12:00pm or leave early at 6:00pm, with pay, so that the employee has three consecutive hours to vote.
If the employee needs other time off for that day unrelated to voting, the employer does not have to provide that employee with paid voting time off at the employee’s requested time. For example, if the employee requests that they need to leave early on election day, but the employee already has 3 consecutive hours off in the morning of election day, that evening leave is not considered voting leave and does not have to be paid as voting leave.
Any employee acting as a Returning Officers or a Poll Official are entitled to an unpaid leave of absence to perform their election duties. The employee must provide the employer with at least 7 days notice of their intention to take a leave.
An employer is prohibited from penalizing an employee for exercising the right to take a leave related to elections, including forcing the employee to take vacation pay or sick pay instead of giving them their paid or unpaid leave as detailed above. The fines for such a contravention of the law bears a maximum fine of $5,000. If a judge finds that the offence was “committed knowingly” or someone assisted in any way the offence being “committed knowingly”, the maximum fine is increased to $25,000 and the offenders could be sent to jail for a maximum of two years less a day.
Reach out to our Employment Law Team if you have any questions.
This article is provided for general information purposes and should not be considered a legal opinion. Clients are advised to obtain legal advice on their specific situations.