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Employers Obligations on Election Day

By George Waggott, founder, and Roberto Fonseca-Velazquez, summer law student,

George Waggott Law

Employers should know how to facilitate an employee’s right to vote. The obligations are not incredibly onerous, but may affect employers who operate outside of a typical 9 to 5 workday.

Keep in mind these obligations only apply to employees who are electors, which means that on polling day they must be a Canadian citizen that is 18 years of age or older.

Three Clear Hours Rule

The main consideration for employers is that while the polls are open, the employer must provide every elector employee with three consecutive hours off from work to vote. This means that if an employee’s shift starts three or more hours after the polls open or ends three or more hours before the polls close, there is no requirement to provide time off. This will be the case for a typical 9-5 employee outside of the Mountain and Pacific time zones. The requirement to provide time off work to the elector employee is “at the employer’s convenience”. This means that employers have the flexibility to determine when an employee can take time away from work to vote, whether it be at the beginning, during or at the end of their work shifts.

Poll opening hours across the country are as follows:

Time Zone                                                                                     Poll Opening Hours

Newfoundland                                                                              8:30 am – 8:30 pm

Atlantic                                                                                           8:30 am – 8:30 pm

Eastern                                                                                           9:30 am – 9:30 pm

Central                                                                                            8:30 am – 8:30 pm

Mountain                                                                                       7:30 am – 7:30 pm

Pacific                                                                                             7:00 am – 7:00 pm

The rules can be illustrated through an example. If an employer operates in the Eastern Time Zone, the polls will open at 9:30 am and close at 9:30 pm. If this employer has an employee who works a shift from 11:30 am to 7:30 pm, then the employer must decide between having the employee start at 12:30 pm, finish at 6:30 pm, or provide three consecutive hours off during the shift.


The major exception to these rules is that employers in the transportation industry whose employees are outside their polling division and cannot be provided with three consecutive hours off to vote without interfering with the transportation service. This will not constitute a breach of the laws surrounding an employee’s right to vote.


Employers cannot withhold pay from an employee that has taken time off work to vote. The employer must compensate the employee what they would have earned if they had not taken time off. In fact, employers who do not comply will commit an offence under the Canada Elections Act. This offence is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000, imprisonment of up to three years, or both.

Further, if an employer prevents an employee from using their voting time, they may incur a summary conviction with a fine up to $20,000 or one year imprisonment, or both, or by indictment with a fine up to $50,000 or 5 years imprisonment, or both.

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