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Provincial Election on the Horizon: Employer Obligations

Practice Areas: Human Resources Support

With the next provincial election looming on the horizon on October 6, 2011, we are writing to remind employers of their obligations under the Ontario Election Act (the “Act”).

Under the Act, employees who are eligible to vote must be given three (3) consecutive hours off of work for the purpose of voting.  This year, voting hours on Election Day will be from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.   In circumstances where an employee’s hours of work do not allow for three (3) consecutive hours to vote within the 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. window, they will be entitled to paid time off of work.  It is important to note that employers cannot make any deductions or impose any penalty on an employee that wishes to vote.   For example, an employer cannot require an employee to take a vacation day or a sick day in order to exercise their right to vote.   The following examples help illustrate an employer’s obligations on Election Day:

A)     An 18 year old resident of Brampton works from 11:00am to 7:00pm.  Her hours of work would not allow her three (3) consecutive hours to vote.  To provide the employee with her three (3) consecutive hours the employer could allow her to arrive late (at 12:00pm), let her leave early (at 6:00pm) or give her three (3) hours off at some point during the work day.  The employer is entitled to choose any of the above arrangements but no matter the selection the employee will be entitled to the full pay she would regularly receive for her 11:00am to 7:00pm shift.

B)      A 45 year old and resident of the City of Toronto is entitled to vote and has voting hours between 9:00am and 9:00pm.  If the Toronto resident works from 8:30am to 6:00pm his hours of work would leave him 3.0 hours after his working day in which he could cast a vote before polls close.  Since this worker has at least three (3) consecutive hours outside of work to vote the employer has no obligation to provide him with time off work to vote.

Should an employer impede or interfere with an employee’s right to vote, a fine of up to $5,000 can be imposed.  Further, if an employer is convicted of an offence and a judge finds that the offence was committed knowingly, the employer will be liable to either a fine of up to $25,000 or imprisonment up to two years less a day, or both.

While employees are entitled to three consecutive hours off of work, they are not entitled to demand which hours they wish to be away from work.  Employers have the discretion to determine this based on the operational requirements of the workplace.

To avoid being inundated with requests for time off to vote from employees, employers are encouraged to take this into consideration when scheduling their hours of work on October 6, 2011.

Please contact one of our lawyers at CCP should you have any questions concerning your obligations on Election Day.

Please Note: This blog has been prepared as an informational service for our clients and other interested parties. It is not intended to constitute legal advice, a complete statement of the law or opinion on any subject. Although we endeavour to ensure the accuracy of the content, no one should act upon the information provided without a thorough examination of the law after the facts of a specific situation are fully considered.


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