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Election Day: Workplace and Voting Rights in Ontario

Whitten and Lublin | Jun 06, 2018

Voting  rights in Ontario; workers are entitled to three (3) consecutive hours for the purpose of voting at polling stations. These three (3) hours must fall between the hours of operation of the polling station at which the particular employee is registered. Employees must not lose pay for any of these three (3) hours which fall during working time. These rights are protected under the Ontario Election Act (1990). The following are answers to typical inquiries that will clarify employer obligations under the provisions mentioned above:

Do all three hours taken for voting purposes have to be paid?

Put simply, the only time taken that otherwise would have been part of a worker’s work schedule for that day are required to be paid. If only one (1) of the three (3) hours taken for voting purposes fall during working hours, then only one (1) hour must be paid by the employer.

Do these three hours have to be taken during the workday?

No. If the polling station’s hours extend beyond a worker’s working hours, then at least part of the three (3) consecutive hours have to be taken during non-working hours unless the employer allows otherwise. For instance, if a worker works 9am – 5pm, and the polling station is open until 9pm, then the worker would have three (3) consecutive hours off work time for voting purposes.

Can the employee choose when to take the three (3) consecutive hours for voting purposes?

No. The employer may grant whatever time off needed at the employer’s convenience. As most polls are open for 12 hours in Ontario, this will often mean that no time off is necessary. If employees work greater than 9 hours during election day, then accommodation will be necessary. Accommodation may mean an employer requires that part of the three (3) consecutive hours take place before or at the end of an employee’s shift so that it takes up a minimal amount of working time.

Can an employer require that part of the three (3) consecutive hours be included in a lunch period?

Employees are entitled to a half-hour uninterrupted lunch period for eating purposes. A half-hour lunch period cannot be combined to make up the total three (3) consecutive hours requirement for voting.