Under the Canada Elections Act ("Act"), all
Canadian employers (with some limited exceptions in the
transportation industry) must ensure their employees have 3
consecutive hours free from work during opening hours for polls on
election day. According to the Act, polls are open for each
electoral district of Canada as follows:
from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., if the
electoral district is in the Newfoundland, Atlantic or Central time
from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., if the
electoral district is in the Eastern time zone;
from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., if the
electoral district is in the Mountain time zone; and
from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., if the
electoral district is in the Pacific time zone.
However, it is important to recognize that employees are not
entitled to a three hour break from work. Rather, it is only if an
employee does not have three consecutive hours off already that an
employer must accommodate them. Further, the scheduling of the
employee's time to vote is at the convenience of the employer,
though, in certain circumstances, it is time that must be paid by
Ensuring employees have time off to vote while minimizing costs
and disruptions to an employer's business can be done in a
number of ways, depending on the terms of the employment contract
with the employee:
If an employee's contract permits
his or her schedule to be varied according to the employer's
needs, the employer can adjust it to ensure the employee has 3
consecutive hours free to vote, without cost. For example, for an
employee with a varying schedule that is supposed to work 9-5 on
election day in British Columbia, the employer could ask him or her
to work 10-6, or 8-4, to ensure he or she has 3 consecutive hours
from work to vote.
Alternatively, if the same employee
is entitled to work 9-5 without adjustment by the employer, the
employer could allow the employee to start at 10, or leave early at
4, but in either case would have to ensure the employee is paid for
the full shift of 9-5.
Though it is more costly, but
depending on the nature of the employer's operations, the
employer could also allow an employee with a set 9-5 schedule to
take 3 consecutive hours off in the middle of the day, all of which
must be paid.
Overall, it is important to remember that, while adjustment to
schedules may be made for employees who are subject to such terms
in their employment agreements, the Act states and includes
punitive provisions so that no employee is penalized or made to
suffer a deduction in pay for voting.
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
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