There’s an election coming! Do you know your obligations?

The Harper government has called a federal government election for October 19, 2015. That gives businesses roughly 11 weeks to understand their electoral obligations. So what are employers’ obligations?

By law, everyone who is eligible to vote must have three (3) consecutive hours to cast their vote on election day. If your hours of work do not allow for three consecutive hours to vote, you must give your employees time off. Having said this, you have the right to decide when the time off to vote will be granted.

Just so you know, polls are open for 12 hours across the country on election day. The voting hours are staggered so that the majority of results are available at approximately the same time on election night.

Voting hours at polling places for each time zone across Canada.
Time zone Voting hours (local time)
Newfoundland 8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Atlantic 8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Eastern 9:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Central 8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Mountain (and Saskatchewan in the 2015 election)* 7:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Pacific 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Given poll times, consider this then, if you will…

If you’re an NS employer and your employees regularly work 9am to 6pm they do not in fact have the mandatory three hours during which to vote. HR pros would suggest, therefore, employees be allowed to leave work and go vote as of 5:30pm to ensure the three hour obligation is met.

Further, you need to know that employers cannot impose a penalty or deduct pay from an employee who is taking time off to vote if required by the Canada Elections Act. An employee must be paid what he or she would have earned during the time allowed off for voting if the employee’s hours of work do not allow for three hours to vote and the employer is thereby required to give time-off; or paid time-off as the case may be.

Finally, if you’re an employer and you do not give employees time off to vote, and they do not otherwise have three consecutive hours during which to vote, know that it is an offence under the Canada Elections Act punishable by a fine of up to $2,000, three months imprisonment, or both.

And, so, it comes down to scheduling! With 11 weeks of campaigning, HR pros would suggest not waiting until the week of the election to start thinking about what your staff schedule will look like on election day. HR pros also suggests that if you don’t have a written policy that talks to obligations during federal, provincial and municipal elections, drop us an email at sylvain@hr-pros.ca or greg@hr-pros.ca. We’d be happy to sit down with you and discuss policies, or any other HR-related need you might have.

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