The federal election will take place on Monday, October 19, 2015. The Canada Elections Act (the "Act") requires employers to give employees who are qualified electors time off work so that they can vote. A qualified elector is every person who:

  1. resides in the electoral district;
  2. is a Canadian citizen;
  3. is 18 years of age or older on polling day; and
  4. is not disqualified under the Act or otherwise prohibited from voting.

Employees who are qualified electors are entitled to three consecutive hours free from work to cast their ballots during polling hours on October 19, 2015. The Act provides that the three consecutive hours free from work is to be scheduled at the time of day that best suits the employer. No additional allowance is required for "travel time" to and from the polls.

An employer must provide time off work only if the employee's schedule prevents the employee from having three consecutive hours to vote. Polling times vary across the provinces and are determined in accordance with the Act.

For example, in Ontario, the polls are open from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Therefore, an employee in Ontario who completes his or her shift at 5:30 p.m. will have three consecutive hours free from work in which to vote, that is, from 5:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. As a result, the employee is not entitled to additional time off work.

However, if an employee works from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. the employee may be permitted to arrive late or leave early to provide three consecutive hours off of work to vote.

An employer may not deduct or reduce the employee's pay or impose any penalty as a result of the employee taking time off work to vote.

Penalties for non-compliance

If an employer fails to grant a qualified elector three consecutive hours free from work in which to vote, the employer may be found to have prevented, impeded or otherwise interfered with an employee's right to vote, and may be liable for a fine of up to $2,000.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.