Employers must give you three hours to vote today

Voters entering a polling station in Quebec City, October 2015.
Voters enter a polling station in Quebec City, October 19, 2015. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger

Voting is your democratic right. If your work schedule coincides with polling hours, your employer is required by law to give you three consecutive hours to leave work to go and vote.

The three-consecutive-hour window depends on your work schedule. For instance, if you work from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and the polls run from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., your employer must allow you to start at 12:00 noon so you have the three hours in the morning, or alternatively let you out at 6:00 p.m. so you have the three consecutive hours in the evening to cast your ballot.

Your employer has the right to decide exactly when during the day to give you this window.

Under two sections of the Canada Elections Act, ss. 132 and 133, your employer may not deduct from your pay or penalize you in any way for giving you the three hours off. Employers will be punished by a maximum fine $2,000 or three months in jail or both, if they deny you the three-hour window or reduce your pay or other regular employment benefits because you demanded three hours off work to exercise your right to vote.

The rules do not apply across the board. There are exceptions. For instance, the three-hour window may not be applicable to employees in the transportation industry if the following four factors are met:

  • The employer is a company that transports goods or passengers by land, air or water
  • The employee is employed outside his or her polling division
  • The employee is employed in the operation of a means of transportation, and
  • The time off cannot be allowed without interfering with the transportation service

If you have further question about how to vote, consult the Canada Elections website.

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