Monday, October 21, 2019 is federal election day. Under the Canada Elections Act, employees who are eligible to vote are entitled to three consecutive hours of time off to vote without a reduction in pay. The three consecutive hours must fall within the open hours of local polling stations, which are as follows:
|Electoral District Time Zone||Voting Hours|
|Newfoundland and Atlantic Time Zones||8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.|
|Eastern Time Zone||9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.|
|Central Time Zone*||8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.|
|Mountain Time Zone*||7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.|
|Pacific Time Zone||7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.|
* In Saskatchewan, special hours are in effect as this year’s election falls during daylight saving time. Voting hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., local time.
If an employee’s schedule already accommodates voting time requirements, then the employer is not required to make scheduling adjustments. However, where an employee’s normal work schedule does not accommodate voting time requirements, the employer must determine which hours will be used to accommodate voting time requirements. On polling day, employees must be paid the same amount they would have been paid had they not exercised their right to voting time.
For example, consider an employee in Vancouver who would normally be scheduled to work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on October 21, 2019. Because there are less than three consecutive local voting hours before and after that employee’s shift, the employer must adjust the schedule to satisfy the voting time requirements. Here are three options that will satisfy the voting requirement:
- The employer could delay the employee’s start time until 10:30 a.m. to ensure the employee has three consecutive hours of voting time prior to his or her shift.
- The employer could end the employee’s shift at 4:30 p.m. to ensure the employee has three consecutive hours of voting time after his or her shift.
- The employer could permit the employee to be absent for three consecutive hours during his or her shift.
On the other hand, an employee in Toronto working those same hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) has more than three consecutive hours to vote after work. The employer would not have to adjust the employee’s schedule.
Employers who reduce pay or fail to satisfy the voting time requirements may be liable for a fine of up to $2,000, and/or imprisonment for up to three months, for each violation of the Canada Elections Act.
- Many thanks to Jan Nato for his assistance with this article.