Labour & Employment Newsletter
Employers’ Obligations on Election Day
With the upcoming Federal election on October 21, 2019, employers should be aware of their obligations to employees on Election Day.
Employers have an obligation to ensure that employees have sufficient time off work to cast a ballot on election day.
Voting polls in Nova Scotia (and all other electoral districts in the Newfoundland, Atlantic, or Central time zones) will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on October 21. Section 132 of the Canada Elections Act provides that an employee who is eligible to vote is entitled to three consecutive hours off to do so on election day. If an employee’s hours of work do not allow for three consecutive hours, the employer must give the employee the time off to provide those three hours, but it is at the discretion of the employer when the time off will occur.
For example, if an employee is scheduled to work from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., the employer could give the employee ½ hour off at the start of his or her shift. Therefore, the employee would not start until 11:30 a.m., which allows three consecutive hours in the morning to vote (8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.). Similarly, the employer could give the employee 1½ hours off at the end of the shift, so the employee would have his or her three consecutive hours between 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
The employer could also allow the employee any three consecutive hours off during the shift. For employees who start work at 11:30 a.m. or later, or who finish work at 5:30 p.m. or earlier, the employer is not required to allow any time off for voting.
Employers must pay their employees regular wages, and are prohibited from imposing any penalty on an employee who takes time off to vote. An employer who makes deductions from employees’ wages for time given to vote may be charged and convicted of an offence carrying a maximum fine of up to $2,000 and/ or three months imprisonment. Employers are also prohibited from intimidating employees or interfering with employees who exercise their right to three consecutive hours for voting. An employer who prevents an employee from using his or her voting time may be charged and convicted of an offence and subject to a maximum fine of $50,000 and/or five years imprisonment.
The one exception to the requirement to provide time off is companies involved in the transportation of goods or passengers, where allowing employees time off would interfere with the transportation service. Employers who fit into that exception are not required to give employees any time off on election day.
While election day is scheduled for October 21 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., there are many ways to vote ahead of time through advance polls. Advanced polling stations will be open between Friday, October 11 to Monday, October 13, from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. It is also possible to vote before election day by mail or by visiting an Elections Canada office.
An employer is not legally obligated under the Canada Elections Act to provide time off to an employee to vote in an advanced poll. By the same token, an employer cannot require or force an employee to participate in advanced polls to avoid its election day obligations.
All employers are urged to keep these requirements in mind when scheduling employees on October 21, 2019.
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