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Time off to vote in the 2021 federal election

Richard Jordan

The federal election will be held on Monday, September 20, 2021.

Under s. 132 of the Canada Elections Act (“Act”), every employee who is an elector (i.e. a Canadian citizen and 18 years of age or older) is entitled, during voting hours on polling day, to have three consecutive hours for the purpose of casting his or her vote.

The voting hours on polling day for electoral districts in the Newfoundland or Atlantic time zone are 8:30 a.m. to 8.30 p.m.

Therefore, for an employee who works from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., the employee would still have three consecutive hours off work while the polls are open in order to vote (5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.). The employer need not provide this employee with any additional time off work.

However, where an employee’s working hours do not permit three consecutive hours off work to vote while the polls are open, the employer must allow the employee additional time with pay to provide the three consecutive hours. However, it is at the employer’s discretion as to when the three consecutive hours will occur.

Therefore, for an employee who works from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., the employee would only have one and a half consecutive hours to vote while the polls are open (7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.). In these circumstances, the employer could choose to let the employee:

(a) leave work at 5:30 p.m. (so the employee has three consecutive hours to vote from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.);

(b) begin their work day at 11:30 a.m. (so the employee has three consecutive hours from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. to vote); or,

(c) have three consecutive hours off at any point during the work day while the polls are open.

The only exception in the Act to the “three consecutive hours rule” is for employees who transport goods or passengers by land, air or water, who operate these transportation services outside his or her polling division. An employer is not required to offer three consecutive hours away from work if the time off would interfere with the transportation service.

Employers are prohibited under the Act from failing to allow an employee three consecutive hours for voting or for interfering with an elector’s right to have three consecutive hours for voting by intimidation, undue influence, or by any other means. Employers are also prohibited under the Act from deducting from the pay of an employee or imposing a penalty on the employee for the time that the employer is required to allow for voting.


This client update is provided for general information only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions about the above, please contact a member of our Labour and Employment group.

 

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