Time Off for Voting on October 19

I’m sure everyone knows by now that Monday, October 19, 2015, is the date of this year’s federal election. What may not be as well known is the impact this may have on employee hours of work on that day.

Under the Canada Elections Act, electors must have 3 consecutive hours free from work, during the time that the polls are open on October 19 (see the chart below).

Claire is an elector who lives in Alberta. In that province, the polls are open from 7:30AM to 7:30 PM, Mountain Time. Claire normally works from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, with a 30-minute meal break for lunch. On the 19th, to provide Claire with 3 consecutive hours free to vote, Claire’s employer would probably let her leave work early, at 4:30 PM.

By contrast, an employee who worked split shifts, such as a school bus driver, who works from 6:30 to 9:30 AM and then 2:30 to 5:30 PM, would not need any time off, since the gap between each split is more than 3 hours.

The point to recognize is that this 3-hour requirement is not the same as saying employees are entitled to 3 hours off work. For example, there’s nothing in the Elections Canada rules to say any time off to vote can’t be made up later in the day. There’s nothing in these rules to say that Claire could not be asked to start work at 10:30 AM and stay through to 6:30 PM. Under these rules, if time off work is required, it’s the employer who gets to decide when that time off will be taken.

However, this employer decision may not be without constraint. The applicable employment standards, may impose a requirement for notice. Similarly, in a unionized environment, a collective agreement may limit the employer’s ability to adjust employee work hours on the 19th.

The other point to understand is that the requirement for employers to allow 3 consecutive hours, free from work, isn’t the same as the federal regulation of employment standards under the Canada Labour Code. Most employment in Canada is provincially regulated under the exclusive provincial jurisdiction over property and civil rights within each province. By contrast, see section 2 of the Canada Labour Code for the list of federally regulated employments.

In this case, the Canada Elections Act applies, even if the employment is otherwise provincially regulated. As such, these rules apply to every employee in Canada with 2 exceptions:

  • An employee must be an eligible voter to qualify for time off; and
  • Employees, who work in any form of land, air or water transportation, and who will be too far from their designated polling location on the 19th to vote, are exempt from this 3-hour requirement, if enforcing it would interfere with those transportation activities on that day.

Note, it does not matter whether employees actually intend to vote or have already voted with a special ballot or in an advance poll. So long as an employee qualifies as an elector (i.e. a Canadian citizen and at least 18 years of age on the 19th), the rules for 3 consecutive hours apply.

When employees must be given time off work, to have 3 consecutive hours free from work, their pay for that day can’t be reduced from what it would otherwise have been.

Alan McEwen is a Vancouver Island-based HRIS/Payroll consultant and freelance writer with over 25 years’ experience in all aspects of the payroll industry. He can be reached at armcewen@shaw.ca or (250) 228-5280. Alan McEwen & Associates is currently offering a series of Vancouver Island payroll training seminars. For information on upcoming seminars, signup to our email list.


Voting Hours on October 19, 2015 (in Local Time)

Time zone

Polls Open
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 (including Saskatchewan) 7:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Pacific 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Source: Elections Canada


About Alan R. McEwen

HRIS/Payroll consultant and freelance writer
This entry was posted in Employment Standards and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.