Employers must give employees time to vote May 2

Any deduction of wages for time off could mean fines
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 04/26/2011

With the federal election set for May 2, 2011, the rules around voting should be clear to employers.

For one, on polling day, every employee who is an elector is entitled, during voting hours, to three consecutive hours to cast her vote — at the convenience of the employer.

The voting hours on polling day are:

• from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., if the electoral district is in the Newfoundland, Atlantic or Central time zone

• from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., if the electoral district is in the Eastern time zone

• from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., if the electoral district is in the Mountain time zone

• from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., if the electoral district is in the Pacific time zone.

If the polling day is during a time of the year when the rest of the country is observing daylight saving time, the voting hours in Saskatchewan are:

• in the case of an electoral district in the Central time zone, from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

• in the case of an electoral district in the Mountain time zone, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

If an employee’s hours of work do not allow for those three consecutive hours, her employer shall allow the time for voting that is necessary to provide those three consecutive hours, according to Elections Canada.

So if an employee works from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., her employer does not have to give her time off to vote as she has more than three hours after work in which to vote. If, however, an employee works from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., his employer must provide some time off to vote, either by having the employee arrive at work later than usual, having him leave work earlier than usual or having him take three hours off during the middle of the day — the voting time is to be allowed at the convenience of the employer.

Employers are not allowed to deduct the pay of an employee or impose a penalty for the time an employee is away voting, during the time allowed by the employer. An employer that pays a worker less than the amount he would have earned on the polling day, had the employee continued to work during the time the employer allowed for voting, it’s considered a deduction from pay, according to Elections Canada.

“No employer shall, by intimidation, undue influence or by any other means, interfere with the granting to an elector in their employ of the three consecutive hours for voting,” it said.

The consequences of failing to grant time off may be significant, according to Roper Greyell, employment and labour lawyers in Vancouver. An employer that fails to provide employees with three consecutive hours off work to vote or deducts wages because of time off to vote may face a fine of up to $1,000. And employer that uses intimidation, undue influence or any other means to interfere with an employee’s right to time off to vote may face a fine of up to $5,000. In both instances, there is also the provision, albeit unlikely, for jail time, said the firm.

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