Employer Obligations on Election Day
August 30, 2021
August 30, 2021
A federal general election will be held on Monday, September 20, 2021.
As a service to our clients, we are publishing this bulletin on the obligations owed by employers to their employees on election day.
Employers must provide their employees:
Three consecutive hours off work
- Eligible voters are entitled to three consecutive hours off work while polls are open for the purpose of casting their ballot
- All Canadian citizens who are at least 18 years of age on election day are eligible to vote
Without loss of pay
- Employers may not make any deduction from an employee’s pay because the employee took time off work to vote
At a time scheduled by the employer
- Employers can choose when to provide the three consecutive hours for voting
- Time off work can be scheduled as convenient to the employer
When will polling stations be open on election day?
- Newfoundland time zone: Polling stations will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
- Atlantic time zone: Polling stations will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
- Eastern time zone: Polling stations will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
- Central time zone: Polling stations will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
- Mountain time zone – including Saskatchewan: Polling stations will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
- Pacific time zone: Polling stations will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Justin and Andrew both work on election day
Polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. in their electoral district
Justin works from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Andrew works from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
The employer must let Justin do one of the following:
- Start work late – at 10:00 a.m.
- Leave work early – at 4:00 p.m.
- Take three consecutive hours off work during the day
Andrew is not entitled to any time off work
- He already has three consecutive hours free from work – 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (COVID-19 response)
Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (COVID-19 response) was introduced in the House of Commons to temporarily supersede the usual election rules and assist Elections Canada in safely administering a federal general election during the COVID-19 pandemic.
One such measure would, for example, have expanded the voting period from a single day (the Monday) to a period of three consecutive days (a Saturday, Sunday and Monday) and set the hours for voting each day.
Bill C-19, however, stalled and was never passed into law.
COVID-19 health and safety measures
Elections Canada has implemented a number of health and safety measures to try and prevent the spread of COVID-19 at polling stations.
While the specific measures may vary from one province to another, all poll workers will be wearing masks and all polling stations will have hand sanitizer available, be marked for physical distancing and have one poll worker per desk behind a plexiglass barrier.
Each voter will be expected to wear a mask, use a single-use pencil to mark his or her ballot or bring his or her own pen or pencil, and practise physical distancing.
Any voter who has tested positive for COVID-19 or has symptoms of the virus or been in contact with someone who has the virus will have to apply to vote by mail.
It is an offence for an employer to fail to provide its employees with three consecutive hours off work to vote or deduct wages because of time off work to vote. It is also an offence for an employer to use intimidation, undue influence or any other means to interfere with an employee’s right to take time off work to vote.
The fines can be significant and range from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. There is also the possibility, albeit unlikely, of jail time.
Collective agreement obligations
For clients that operate in a unionized environment, it is advisable to review any provisions in the collective agreement which speak to obligations on election day. Employers may have contractual obligations in addition to those under the legislation.
We are aware of at least one collective agreement, for example, which provides employees with four consecutive hours off work to vote.
The right to have three consecutive hours free from work on election day, without any loss of pay, is not a right available to all employees.
For a company that transports goods or passengers by land, air or water, an employee who is employed outside his or her polling division (a part of “an electoral district in a general election” which has “at least 250 electors”) in the operation of a transportation service is not entitled to time off work to vote if this cannot be accomplished without interfering with the service.
If you have any question about how the upcoming federal general election might affect you and your business or any other workplace matter at all, please feel free to contact James D. Kondopulos at email@example.com or (604) 806-3865. For more information about James and the rest of the Roper Greyell team, please visit www.ropergreyell.com.
Alexandra M. Teachman is a summer student at Roper Greyell. She is interested in all areas of workplace law, including employment, labour and workplace human rights and privacy law.
While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy in this bulletin, you are urged to seek specific advice on matters of concern and not to rely solely on what is contained herein. The bulletin is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.