Time to Vote! How Employers Must Prepare for the Upcoming Federal Election.
This coming October 21, the Canadian electorate will be called upon to vote in the federal general election. In Quebec, polling stations will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., whereas in other parts of the country, opening hours may vary slightly.
It is important to note that under the Canada Elections Act, every employee eligible to vote is entitled to three consecutive hours to vote during voting hours on polling day. If the employee’s working hours do not allow for those three consecutive hours, the employer must allow the employee the time for voting that is necessary to provide those three consecutive hours. The time that the employer allows the employee for voting is at the employer’s convenience.
For example, if an employee is scheduled to work from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on October 21, the employer must allow him or her the time necessary in order to have three consecutive hours within which to vote. On the other hand, if the employee’s working hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., the employer will not have to allow the employee any time to vote, as he or she will already have three consecutive hours available to vote after working hours.
It should also be noted that it is prohibited for employers to make a deduction from an employee’s pay or impose a penalty for the time allowed for him or her to vote. Thus, any time allowed to employees in order to vote is with pay.
The Canada Elections Act also provides that employers are prohibited from using intimidation, undue influence or any other means to prevent employees eligible to vote from having three consecutive hours within which to do so.
Finally, it must be borne in mind that politics has a tendency to arouse passions. Consequently, an astute employer will forbear from making any comment that could be perceived as an attempt to influence an employee’s vote. Proceedings have already been instituted against employers, particularly for psychological harassment, following discussions or debates of a political nature in the workplace. Prudence is thus called for in this regard.