Ontario residents will return to the polls today, Monday, October 22, 2018, for the 2018 municipal council and school board elections. Pursuant to the Ontario Municipal Election Act, 1996 (the “Act”), every employee that is eligible to vote is entitled to three consecutive hours away from work while polls are open on election day in order to cast their vote.
Required Time Off From Work to Vote
As set out in the Act, the voting hours in Ontario begin at 10:00 a.m. and end at 8:00 p.m. If an employee’s regular hours would not provide the employee with the required three consecutive hours away from work during voting hours within which to vote, the employer must provide the employee time off from work to the extent necessary to attain that minimum three-hour requirement. However, if the employee’s schedule already allows for three consecutive hours outside of work to vote (e.g. if the employee’s working hours do not start before 1:00 pm or do not end after 5:00 pm), the employer is not required to provide any additional time away from work during the scheduled hours.
Employers may not deduct from an employee’s pay as a result of being provided time off to vote and may not otherwise penalize an employee for exercising his or her right to vote.
For example, if an employee is scheduled to work from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on election day, he or she would have only 2 ½ hours free from work before the polls close. In this example, the employer would most easily meet its obligation by permitting the employee to leave work one half hour early (at 5:00 p.m.) without any pay deduction so that he or she is provided with the required three-hour block of time before polls close at 8:00 p.m. However, employers may choose when to provide the three consecutive hours at a time most convenient for them. In this example, if it were essential for the business that the employee be at work until 5:30 pm, the employer could, for example, permit the employee to come into work at 1:00 pm, or allow the employee a three-hour window of time away from work in the middle of the workday, in order to satisfy its obligation under the Act.
Employers of unionized employees should review their collective agreement, as it may contain a provision regarding the unionized employees’ right to time off to vote beyond the three-hour requirement set out in the Act.
Penalty for Non-Compliance
A corporation’s violation of the requirement to provide three consecutive hours free from work without a deduction in pay may result in a fine of up to $50,000.
This blog is provided as an information service and summary of workplace legal issues.
This information is not intended as legal advice.