The Ontario provincial election will take place on Thursday, June 7, 2018. Aside from the election results themselves, the most pressing question triggered by this event for many employers is: are my employees entitled to paid time off to vote?

The answer: Maybe.

Under the Ontario Election Act, all employees who are qualified to vote are entitled to three consecutive hours free from work during polling hours in which to cast their vote. For most of the province, voting hours will run from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. If an employee’s scheduled hours of work do not allow for three consecutive hours free from work within this twelve-hour voting window, the employee may request for time off. If an employee makes this request, the employer must grant it. Any time off from work must be paid and the employee cannot be penalized.

For illustrative purposes, let’s assume:

  • Mary is scheduled to work on Thursday June 7, 2018 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    Mary is not entitled to any time off work to vote because Mary still has four consecutive hours at the end of the day in which to vote.
  • Alex is scheduled to work on Thursday, June 7, 2018 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
    Alex will be entitled to time off work to vote because Alex only has two consecutive hours in the day in which to vote.

Any time off for voting may be scheduled at the time of day that best suits the convenience of the employer. For example, in the scenario above, Alex’s employer could allow Alex to leave work at 6 p.m. so that: (i) Alex has three consecutive hours in which to vote (6 p.m. to 9 p.m.), but (ii) only one hour of paid time off from work is necessary (6 p.m. to 7 p.m.).

For more information regarding your obligations under the Election Act, contact a member of the Employment Law group at DLA Piper (Canada) LLP.