Thursday, June 2, 2022 is Election Day in Ontario. For employees who have not already cast their vote at advance polls, employers must provide paid time off to vote under certain circumstances.
The Ontario Elections Act (“Act”) requires that all employees who are 18 years of age or older be provided with three consecutive hours during voting hours on Election Day to vote. The requirement to provide time off during Election Day is triggered when the employee’s scheduled work hours conflict with the local voting hours and prevent them from having three consecutive hours to vote.
Polls are open on June 2 from 9 AM to 9 PM (Eastern Time). Where the requirement to provide time off on Election Day to vote is triggered, the paid time off can be provided at a time during the day that is convenient to the employer, either at the beginning, middle, or end of the shift.
If an employee’s hours of employment do not allow for three consecutive hours, the employer must provide additional time to meet that requirement should the employee request it. For example, if an employee is scheduled to work 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., the employer must provide time off to allow the employee to vote if requested. Because an employer can decide when an employee takes time off, the employer can allow the worker to leave at 6:00 p.m., giving them three hours from 6:00p.m. to 9:00 p.m. to vote. If an employee has already voted in advance polls, they are not entitled to additional paid time off on Election Day.
Subject to collective agreement requirements, employers may vary the employee’s shift so that they can work a full day before going to vote. For example, an employer may require an employee to start their shift 30 minutes early so that they have three consecutive hours at the end of their shift to vote.
Employers may not make any deduction from an employee’s pay because of the employee’s absence in order to cast their ballot. An employee is entitled to a full day’s pay, whether they are hourly or salaried.
Employers who withhold pay or interfere with an employee’s right to three hours of time off to vote will be in violation of the Ontario Elections Act. Employers could be subject to a fine of up to $5,000 per violation. The fine could increases to a maximum of either $25,000, two years’ jail time or both if a judge convicts the employer and finds they purposely committed the offence.
If you have any questions about this topic or any other questions relating to workplace law, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer.