What employers need to know about Federal Election Day

A big election rule that many employers don’t seem to be aware of is the rule in which employees are required to be given three consecutive hours free from work in order to cast their vote on Election Day – if the employee requests it.

By law, everyone who is eligible to vote must have three consecutive hours to cast his/her vote. If the employee’s hours of work will not allow three consecutive hours to vote, employers must give them time off – without docking the employee’s pay.

In BC, the polling stations are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Employers do have the right to decide WHEN the time will be given.  Obviously, if you run an office where your employees work 9 – 5, it would make the most sense to have them come in at ten a.m. or leave for the day at 4 p.m.  This gives them three consecutive hours to vote and costs the employer the least amount of money.  Obviously, if you choose to let the employee off in the middle of the day then it could cost you two or three hours instead of one.

This rule may not apply to those in the transportation industry.

Here is the link to the information on the Elections Canada website:  http://www.elections.ca/content2.aspx?section=faq&dir=off&document=index&lang=e

I did call Elections Canada this morning for clarification as I’d like to see more information on the ins & outs of this in their FAQs on time off to vote.  There is nothing to indicate if employers need to change their scheduling for everyone for Election Day automatically or if this only applies to those employees who specifically ask for it.  For instance, I voted in the advance polls.  If I was an employee it would be ridiculous for me to ask for time off to vote and it would be more ridiculous for my employer to pay me for time off when I don’t need it.  According to “Candace” at Elections Canada, employees request to be given the time.  It isn’t automatic.  However, if it’s requested, employers must allow for it and not dock pay.  However, the FAQs also don’t indicate when the time off must be requested.

In my opinion, while I highly encourage everyone to get their vote on, I think its ridiculous that employers are expected to basically pay people to vote.  I also find the lack of detailed information on this rule – especially with the threat of a $2000 fine and/or jail time – to also be ridiculous.  Considering the availability of advance polls, I think our citizens should make it their own priority to make sure they get to the polls to have their say in the running of this country.  It shouldn’t be the responsibility of employers to pay people to vote.

However, since this is the law and the penalty for non-compliance can be up to $2000 and/or three months in prison, I encourage employers to speak to their employees today and find out what time off people may need for Monday in order to keep your workplace running smoothly.  I would also suggest that employees who do NEED the time off to let their employers know in advance so that they can make sure they have the workplace covered as they need.  Common courtesy and understanding always goes a long way.

Now, get out there on Monday and get your vote on!