Labour & Employment Newsletter

Employers’ Obligations on Election Day in Nova Scotia

Summer, 2021

With the upcoming election in Nova Scotia on August 17, 2021, employers should be aware of their obligations to employees on that day. This newsletter sets out employers’ obligations to ensure that employees have enough time to vote on that 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 will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on August 17th.  Section 131 of the Nova Scotia Elections Act provides that an employee who is eligible to vote is entitled to three (3) consecutive hours off to do so on election day.  If an employee’s hours of work do not allow for three (3) consecutive hours, the employer must give the employee the time off to provide those three hours.

It is at the discretion of the employer when the time off will occur. For example, if an employee is scheduled to work from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., the employer could give the employee 2.5 hours off at the start of their shift or ½ hour at the end of the shift.  Therefore, the employee would not start until 11:00 a.m., which allows three (3) consecutive hours in the morning to vote (8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.). Similarly, the employer could give the employee 30 minutes off at the end of the shift, so the employee would have their three (3) consecutive hours between 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.  The employer could also allow the employee any three (3) consecutive hours off during the shift.

For employees who start work at 11:00 a.m. or later, or who finish work at 5:00 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. 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 their voting time may be charged and convicted of an offence.

The one exception to the requirement to provide time to vote is for employers engaged in the operation and dispatch of scheduled railway trains, buses, motor transports, ships or aircraft and to whom the three consecutive hours would interfere with the scheduled operations of such transportation services. Employers who fit into that exception are not required to give employees any time off on election day.

While election day is scheduled for August 17th, there are many ways to vote ahead of time at advance polls. Prior to Election Day, you can vote early at the returning office in your electoral district or any returning office in the Province from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day except Sundays. All returning offices are also open with extended hours on the Thursday and Friday night before Election Day until 8:00 p.m. For those who wish to vote early, Elections Nova Scotia sets aside seven days of advance polls. You may vote at any advance poll in the Province. The advance polls are open on Saturday to Saturday (closed Sunday) immediately before Election Day from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (open until 8:00 p.m. on Thursday and Friday).

An employer is not legally obligated under the Nova Scotia Elections Act to provide time off to an employee to vote in an advance poll.  By the same token, an employer cannot require or force an employee to participate in an advance poll to avoid its election day obligations.

All employers are urged to keep these requirements in mind when scheduling employees for August 17, 2021.


This newsletter is produced by Wickwire Holm to keep our clients and friends informed of developments in the law and emerging issues. It is intended for general information purposes only. In preparing and circulating this newsletter, Wickwire Holm is not providing legal or other professional advice. Readers are encouraged to consult their professional advisers before taking any action on the basis of information contained in this newsletter. If you have any questions about any issues raised within this newsletter or a related issue, please contact us at wh@wickwireholm.com or 902.429.4111.