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Time Off to Vote On Election Day

logo1With the upcoming federal election on Monday, October 19, 2015, we thought it would be useful to review the obligations of employers to provide their employees with time off to vote.

The Canada Elections Act says everyone who is eligible to vote must have three consecutive hours during voting hours to vote on election day. In British Columbia, polls are open from 7 am to 7 pm. Eligible voters are Canadian citizens who are at least 18 years old on election day.

If your staff’s work schedule does not allow for sufficient time off to vote, then the Act outlines that employers are obligated to provide time off with pay. The Act says that employers may not penalize or deduct pay from an employee who is taking time off to vote. An employee must be paid what he or she would have earned during the time allowed off for voting.

However, you are permitted to unilaterally schedule the 3 hours of time off at a time that is convenient for you. For example, if your employee’s shift is 9 am to 5 pm, you can decide to allow the employee to start work later at 10 am (so they have 3 hours from 7 am to 10 am to vote) or to leave work early at 4 pm (so they have 4 pm to 7 pm to vote). In this example, only one hour at the start or end of the shift would be paid time off.

Practically speaking, this usually is an issue only when an employee has a lengthy commute between their workplace and their polling station, has difficulties with childcare scheduling, operational requirements resulting in inflexibility with shift times, or other similar scheduling difficulties. Some options to deal with these include getting the employee’s agreement to change the employee’s entire shift to allow for three consecutive hours off, voting at an advance poll, voting by mail, etc.

If you anticipate providing employees with three consecutive hours off to vote will have a significant impact on your business on election day, please contact us to discuss how to minimize the impact.

 

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