Federal Election 2011: Employers' Obligations
April 6, 2011
On May 2, 2011 Canadians will head to the polls to cast their votes for their political party of choice. Under the federal Canada Elections Act:
• Employees have the right to three (3) consecutive hours to vote during voting hours;
• If the employee’s hours of work require time off to allow these three hours, the employer must give the employee enough time during voting hours to vote, with pay and without penalty for any time off required to do so; and
• Certain employees of transportation companies are excepted from the right to paid time off to vote.
Under the Canada Elections Act, all employees who are Canadian citizens and 18 years of age or older are entitled to three consecutive hours on election day, during voting hours, to cast their vote. Voting hours are determined by the time zone in which the electoral district lies. In Atlantic Canada, the voting hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Where an employee’s hours of work prevent her from having the three consecutive voting hours required by the Act, the employer “shall allow the time for voting that is necessary to provide those three consecutive hours”. The Act states the time off may be scheduled when it is convenient for the employer; for example, assuming voting hours until 8:30 p.m.:
If an employee works from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., the employee does not have three consecutive hours outside of his or her work hours in which to cast a vote. As a result, the employer must provide sufficient paid time off work to meet the three-hour obligation. In this instance, the employer could meet its obligation by permitting the employee to leave work at 5:30 p.m.
Where an employer must provide time off t¬o an employee so he or she can vote, the employer may not make a deduction from pay or impose any form of penalty. Rather, the employee must receive full pay for the day regardless of the basis upon which she is paid.
Where an employee has three consecutive hours that fall within the voting hours, but fall outside of her work hours, the employer has no obligation to provide paid time off from work.
The requirement to provide paid time off does not apply to certain employees of transportation companies that transport goods or passengers by land, air or water. This exception will apply when the employee is employed outside his or her polling division in the operation of a means of transportation, and the time off cannot be provided without interfering with the transportation service.
Employers which do not comply with the obligations set out in the Canada Elections Act risk severe penalties, including fines or imprisonment. Compliance is essential.
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