As Canadians prepare to cast their votes in the upcoming federal election, employees and employers alike should be aware of the specific legal entitlements that are in place to ensure that all workers have an opportunity to exercise their civic duty.
All Canadian employees who are eligible to vote on polling day (a Canadian citizen of at least 18 years of age) are entitled to 3 consecutive hours off work to vote. Pursuant to this rule enacted by the Canada Elections Act, if an employee’s work schedule does not provide them with 3 consecutive hours to attend a polling station, they are entitled to take time off from work, with pay. However, the right to take paid time off work to vote is “at the employer’s convenience”, meaning that it is ultimately up to the employer to determine when the employee can take paid time off.
For example, Jane’s polling station is open from 9:30am to 9:30pm. She is a full-time employee and regularly works from 11:00am to 7:00pm with a 1-hour lunch break. On voting day, Jane will not have 3 consecutive hours off work during polling hours as a result of her work schedule. Consequently, Jane is entitled to receive paid time off work to vote, but it is within her employer’s discretion to determine when she can take time off. The employer, for instance, can allow her to report to work at 12:30pm (thereby giving her 3 consecutive hours in the morning to vote), or allow her to leave work early at 6:30pm (thereby giving her 3 consecutive hours in the evening to vote) while still providing her with a full day’s pay.
Also, the law does not preclude an employer from adjusting an individual’s work schedule on voting day to ensure that they have 3 consecutive hours to vote, as long as this change does not violate a term of the employee’s employment contract. Using Jane’s example above, her employer could adjust her hours so that she starts and ends her work day 30 minutes earlier than usual, therefore allowing her to work a full day while still providing her with 3 consecutive hours in the evening to vote.
Some employees may feel pressured by their employers to abstain from taking time off from work to vote. Fortunately, the Canada Elections Act specifically prohibits employers from intimidating or unduly influencing an employee from exercising their right take paid time off work to vote.
Heidi LeBlanc is an employment lawyer at Singh Lamarche LLP. She advises both employees and employers with respect to all aspects of employment law. If you have any questions regarding an employment matter, Heidi can be reached directly by telephone at 647-799-0499, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.