Employers’ obligations at election time

Workers need three hours to vote between 9:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Employees need to be given a three-hour window in which to vote on election day, but employers won't have to make special accommodations for most 9-to-5 workers, according to the Canada Elections Act.

Under the act, every employee who is qualified to vote has the right to take three consecutive hours, while the polls are open, for the purpose of voting.

Most polls are open from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. so if employees start work after 12:30 p.m. or end work before 6:30 p.m., employers aren't required to give them time off.

If, however, employees’ hours of work do not allow for three consecutive hours to vote, the employer must grant them the necessary time off to meet the three-hour requirement, at the time of day that best suits the employer.

Even though employees will be given the time off, they must still be compensated as if they had worked their usual hours and no deductions may be made from their wages.

Employers that do not comply with these requirements, either by not giving employees adequate time or by docking their wages for the time off, risk severe penalties, including a fine of up to $1,000 and imprisonment for up to three months. An employer that intimidates or otherwise interferes with employees’ right to a minimum voting time is liable to a fine of up to $5,000 or imprisonment for up to five years.

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