A Provincial General Election is scheduled to take place in British Columbia on Tuesday, May 9, 2017.
The B.C. Election Act imposes certain obligations on employers to ensure that their employees have sufficient time free from work to exercise their right to vote.
We are publishing this bulletin to help employers understand the scope of their obligations on General Voting Day.
Who can vote in the Provincial General Election?
All Canadian citizens who are at least 18 years old on General Voting Day and have lived in B.C. for six months before election day are eligible to vote in the Provincial General Election.
When are polling stations open on General Voting Day?
Polling stations are open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. PT.
Time off for Voting
Section 74 of the Election Act outlines an employer’s obligations to provide time off for voting. Of particular significance, employers must provide their employees:
- Four consecutive hours off work. Employees eligible to vote are entitled to four consecutive hours free from work during voting hours on General Voting Day – i.e. between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. PT.
- Without loss of pay or penalty. An employer may not make any deduction from an employee’s pay or impose any other penalty because he or she took time off to vote. Employees are entitled to their regular compensation for hours not worked because of voting.
- At a time scheduled by the employer. While an employer must provide its employees with time off work, the employer can choose in its discretion when to provide the four consecutive hours for voting.
Sam and Toby both work on General Voting Day. Polling stations are open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. PT
Sam works from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The employer must let Sam do one of the following:
- Start late – 12:00 p.m. or later
- Leave early – 4:00 p.m. or earlier
- Take four consecutive hours off work during his scheduled hours
Irrespective of when Sam takes time off for voting, he is entitled to his regular compensation for his full shift
Toby works from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Toby is not entitled to any time off work because he has four consecutive hours free from work for voting – 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Employers Operating in a Unionized Environment
Any employer operating in a unionized environment is advised to review all provisions of the applicable collective agreement which speak to obligations on General Voting Day. The employer may have obligations over and above the statutory obligations set out in the Election Act.
Employees Working in a Remote Location
The right to have four consecutive hours off work on General Voting Day without any loss of pay or penalty is not a right available to all employees. An employee who is in a remote location by reason of employment such that he or she would be unable to reasonably reach any voting place during voting hours is not entitled to time off for voting.
Penalties for Non-Compliance
The consequences for an employer of failing to grant time off work for voting can be significant. Failure to comply with section 74 of the Election Act is an offence and, on conviction, the employer may be liable to one or both of the following: a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment for a term not longer than one year.
Any employer anticipating a disruption to its business on General Voting Day can encourage its employees to vote in advance voting. This will be available throughout B.C. from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (local time) on April 29 and 30 and May 3, 4, 5 and 6, 2017. The employer cannot compel its employees to vote on those voting days.
If you have any question at all about how the Provincial General Election may affect you or your workplace, please contact Tamara or James or any other lawyer at Roper Greyell LLP.