Back to all publications
Sep 30, 2019

It’s Election Time (Again): Your Employees’ Voting Rights

By Daria (Dasha) Peregoudova

As an employer, you are likely asking what rights your employees have during the upcoming federal election on October 21, 2019, and what your corresponding obligations might be.

Each employee who is also an “elector” (a Canadian citizen 18 years of age or older on polling day) is entitled to three consecutive hours off from work to vote, as mandated by the Canada Elections Act. Subject to a few considerations set out below, employers are obligated to provide the necessary time off work to vote, with pay, if the employee’s schedule does not otherwise allow for such free time to vote.

If your employees’ existing work schedule already allows for three consecutive hours to vote on election day during regular polling hours, you do not need to give employees any additional time off. However, in the likely event that an employee’s work schedule does not have a three-hour window, you must provide that window, with pay, if asked. The employer can, however, provide that window at any time during the employee’s work shift.

As a general rule, employers cannot withhold pay or pay an employee less than they would have earned on election day if an employee has taken time off work to vote (even if they don’t actually vote – as the employer cannot request “proof” of attending at the polling station). For example, an employer is legally obligated to pay the employee for any time off taken so that the three-hour requirement can be met (i.e. if polling stations close at 9:30 p.m. and the employee is supposed to work until 7:00 p.m., they must be allowed to leave at 6:30 p.m., but be paid for the half hour they were supposed to remain at work), being mindful that voting hours do differ slightly across Canada by time zone. In Ontario (Eastern Time), polling stations are open between 9:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m.

While an employee can voluntarily waive their right to time off work for voting and stay at work (i.e. not vote, or having chosen to vote in an early poll), no employer is exempt from the requirements set out above, except for transportation companies and their employees if the time off cannot be allowed without interfering with the transportation service and they are operating outside their polling division. Withholding pay, interfering with an employee’s right to three hours to vote or unduly influencing an employee to not exercise their three-hour right all constitute offences and can attract serious consequences under the Canada Elections Act and, as such, should be avoided.

Areas of Expertise

Related Publications

Publications Article
COVID-19 & Esports – Part 3 – Implications For the Future By Peter K. Czegledy May 27, 2020 In this article, the author suggests what such increased affinity may imply for the gaming and es... In this article, the author suggests what such increased affinity may imply for the gaming and esports industry in the future.
Publications Article
COVID-19 & Esports – Part 2 – The Socio-Cultural Context By Peter K. Czegledy May 26, 2020 This article explaines some of the attributes of gaming and esports, citing them as reasons that ... This article explaines some of the attributes of gaming and esports, citing them as reasons that might support a strong affinity for participants that perhaps should not be underestimated in the longer term.
Publications Article
COVID-19 and the Workplace: Remote Working Legal Considerations and Recommendations By Fiona Brown, Michael F. Horvat and Daria (Dasha) Peregoudova May 26, 2020 COVID-19 continues to disrupt workplaces across the country and a return to “normal” could be mon... COVID-19 continues to disrupt workplaces across the country and a return to “normal” could be months away. As employees remain sequestered, many businesses will have to maintain remote working conditions for a much longer time, and to a much larger group of employees, than ...