October 24, 2022, is the day for regular municipal elections in Ontario. With the day fast approaching, now is the time for employers to turn their minds to their obligations under the Municipal Elections Act (the "Act"), and prepare for voting day.

In accordance with section 50 of the Act: "An elector whose hours of employment are such that he or she would not otherwise have three consecutive hours to vote on voting day is entitled to be absent from work for as long as is necessary to allow that amount of time." The Act further requires voting stations to be open from 10:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. on voting day, meaning the three consecutive hours must be available during this window. Finally, while the Act allows the time off to be scheduled in a manner most convenient for the employer, it also prohibits any deductions from an employee's pay or the imposition of any other penalties for the absence.

As a consequence, employers whose employees are expected to work from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. do not need to alter their operations or employee schedules in any way. Similarly, no change would be required for an employee working an afternoon shift (e.g. beginning at 1:00 p.m. or later) because they would have three consecutive hours free from work between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. to vote on voting day. It is important to note that the Act does not require employers to provide three hours off from work, they must only ensure that every employee has three hours free from work during the defined voting day. Therefore, an employee expected to work between, for example, 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on voting day should be allowed to finish work at 5 p.m., thereby providing three consecutive hours at the end of the day.

While the Act is the main source of an employer's municipal election day obligations, unionized workplaces may also have collective agreement language to consider. For example, there could be language specific to voting rights, or there could be less obvious impacts from provisions around hours of work, overtime, premium pay or other related language. If you have questions about how your collective agreement language could impact your obligations on elections ay, it is best to seek specific advice from your CCP lawyer.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.