In light of the upcoming federal election, which was officially launched today, this is a timely reminder for employers on their statutory obligations to provide employees with time off from work so that employees may exercise their constitutionally-protected right to vote on polling day.1 Obligations may vary depending on the jurisdiction, as is described in the outline below.
|Jurisdiction(s)||Time Allotted to Vote||Prohibitions||Jurisdiction-specific Notes|
|Canada (federally regulated employers)
|3 consecutive hours||Employers may not deduct pay or impose a penalty by reason of his/her absence during this time.||Canada: This allowance doesn’t apply “to an employee of a company that transports goods or passengers by land, air or water who is employed outside his or her polling division in the operation of a means of transportation, if the additional time […] cannot be allowed without interfering with the transportation service”
New Brunswick: This allowance doesn’t apply to employees “actually engaged in the running of trains and to whom such time cannot be allowed without interfering with the manning of the trains”.
Nova Scotia: This allowance doesn’t apply to “an employee who is engaged in the operation and dispatch of scheduled railway trains, buses, motor transports, ships or aircraft and to whom the three consecutive hours mentioned in subsection (1) cannot be allowed without interfering with the scheduled operation or dispatch of the trains, buses, motor transports, ships or aircraft.”
Newfoundland and Labrador
|4 consecutive hours||British Columbia: Employers may not penalize the employee (through dismissal, diminished benefits, etc.) by reason of his/her absence during this time.
Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon: Employers may not deduct pay or impose a penalty by reason of his/her absence during this time.
|British Columbia: (1) This is the only jurisdiction which explicitly states that the leave is without pay (rather than prohibiting pay deduction). (2) This allowance doesn’t apply to: “(a) election officials and individuals employed or retained by the chief electoral officer or a district electoral officer to work on general voting day; (b) individuals who, by reason of employment, are in such remote locations that they would be unable to reasonably reach any voting place during voting hours.”
|Nunavut||2 consecutive hours||Employers may not deduct pay or impose a penalty by reason of his/her absence during this time.||“A voter who is paid on an hourly, piece-work or other basis and who would normally work during the period of time off work that an employer is required to grant under this section has a right to be paid for that time at the voter’s average rate of pay for equivalent time.”
This allowance “does not apply to any election officer or member of the staff of Elections Nunavut or to any employee who, by reason of employment, is so far away from a polling place that the employee would be unable to reach a polling place during the hours it is open.”
|Prince Edward Island||Reasonable and sufficient time (and not less than 1 hour)||“If the employment of an employee does not permit the use of one hour of his or her own time for voting, the employer shall allow the employee such additional time with pay from the hours of his or her employment as may be necessary to provide the one hour, but the additional times for voting shall be granted to the employee at the time of day that best suits the convenience of the employer.”
This allowance “does not apply to an employee who is engaged in the operation and dispatch of scheduled buses, motor transports, ships and aircraft, and to whom the time mentioned in subsection (1) cannot be allowed without interfering with the scheduled operation or dispatch of buses, motor transports, ships or aircraft.”
Employers who do not comply with applicable legislation run the risk of facing punitive measures, ranging from fines to imprisonment. Additionally, some workplaces will have either HR policies or (in unionized workplaces) a collective agreement that provides for an even greater leave entitlement than the minimum stipulated under the Act. If in doubt, check with your HR department.
The author wishes to thank Alexandra Saikaley, articling student in Ottawa, for her contribution to this piece.
1 Voter eligibility under the Canada Elections Act, is restricted to Canadian citizens who are at least 18 years of age.
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