Time (off) to vote: what you should knowSep 13 2021
We’re not touching party platforms, but here’s what you should know about employee voting rights on Election Day and special COVID-19 protocols. Once Advance Polls close at 9pm tonight, your final opportunity to vote in person in the Canadian federal election will be on September 20, 2021.
HOW MUCH TIME DO EMPLOYEES GET TO VOTE?
- Employers are required to ensure employees have at least three (3) consecutive hours to vote on Election Day while the polls are open. In British Columbia, our polls are open from 7am to 7pm. It is up to the employer to decide when time off will be granted so employees should work with their employer on scheduling.
Example 1: if your scheduled shift is from 9am to 5pm, it may be possible to start your shift at 10am or finish your shift at 4pm.
Example 2: if your scheduled shift is from 12pm to 8pm, you would not be entitled to an accommodation for time off to vote.
- For some employees in the transportation industry, exceptions may apply under limited circumstances found on the Elections Canada’s website here.
- Employees are not entitled to time off to vote in Advance Polls.
DO EMPLOYEES GET PAID FOR THE HOURS TAKEN OFF TO VOTE?
- If an employee needs a shift accommodation to vote in accordance with the three consecutive hours, the employer is not permitted to dock time missed to cast his or her ballot.
what about violations?
- Under the Canada Elections Act, employers who violate the rules regarding time off are subject to a $2,000 fine and/or three months of jail at maximum. Employers who imply or express to employees repercussions for taking time off to vote are subject to a $50,000 fine and/or five years of jail at maximum.
- Employees can file complaints to the Commissioner of Canada Elections by filling out this online form.
CAN AN EMPLOYEE BE DISCIPLINED FOR TAKING TIME OFF AND NOT VOTING?
- This would be time theft so theoretically yes, but it would be very difficult to prove. The foundation of an employment relationship is trust. Employees, it’s just not a good idea.
WHERE CAN I VOTE?
- All eligible voters should have received a voter information card from Elections Canada that provides the details of your polling station. You are required to vote at a polling station that is in the electoral riding where you reside. More information on who is eligible and where to vote can be found on the Elections Canada website at https://www.elections.ca/home.aspx.
Special COVID-19 Measures
- All poll workers and candidate representatives are required to be masked. Voters will be encouraged to wear masks, however this is not mandatory to vote. In our experience, everyone is masked.
- Elections Canada has indicated voters will be encouraged to provide their name and phone number for contact tracing in case of a covid outbreak, however this does not seem to be occurring. It is also not mandatory to vote. Any information you provide is to be used only by public health authorities (if requested).
- Voters will be encouraged to observe physical distancing and there will be clear markers. There will also be a reduced numbers of poll workers with just one (instead of two) at each station.
- You may bring your own pen or pencil to mark your ballot, or you will be provided with a single-use pencil. Note: black will be easiest for poll workers to see when later counting ballots.
- If you test positive for COVID-19 or have related symptoms, you are asked to isolate and follow any instructions received from your local public health authority. You can apply for a mail ballot but only until 3pm tomorrow, September 14. If the positive result or symptoms are after this cutoff, it will mean you cannot vote.
Voter turnout in BC for the 2019 Federal Election was approximately 65%. We hope the above information will help to ensure 100% of eligible voters at least have the opportunity to vote.
Note: in Abbotsford, we have double the election signs adorning our town with a separate by-election also underway for a seat on our local city council. Advance Polls for the municipal by-election are coming up and Election Day is on September 25, 2021. The information above only applies to the federal election. Employees are not entitled to a specific block of time off for municipal elections.