Labour & Employment Law Insights

Canadians Cast their Ballots on October 21st – What do Employers Need to Know?

October 18, 2019

Labour | Employment

A federal election has been called for Monday, October 21, 2019. Polls will be open for fixed periods on Election Day, which vary by time zone:

Eastern: 9:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Central: Atlantic or Newfoundland: 8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Mountain: 7:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Pacific: 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Under the Canada Elections Act, all employees who are eligible voters are entitled to three consecutive hours free from work during the relevant voting period in order to cast their ballots.

However, an employer is not obligated to provide time off work where an employee’s schedule is such that they already have three consecutive hours free from work during the set voting hours in their electoral district. For example, an employee situated in the Eastern time zone who is scheduled to work on October 21st from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. would not have a right to time off work on Election Day.

However, where an employee’s work schedule does not provide for three consecutive hours free from work during the relevant voting period, an employer must provide paid time off work to meet the required threshold.  Employers are not permitted to make wage deductions, or impose other penalties, for time taken away from work in order to vote.

Where an employee is entitled to time off work on Election Day, an employer is permitted to schedule such time at its convenience.  An employer may therefore be able to accommodate the three consecutive hour requirement simply by permitting an employee to arrive to work late, or leave early, on the day of the election.

It should be noted that the above obligations will generally not apply to an employee who transports goods or passengers by land, air or water, when they are employed outside of their polling division, and time off cannot be provided without interfering with the transportation service.

If you have questions, or require further information, about your employer obligations on Election Day, please contact a member of the FWTA legal team.