On June 2, 2022, Ontarians will head to the polls to cast their ballot in the first provincial election since June 2018.
Are all employers required to give employees time off work to vote on Ontario election day?
Regardless of the employee’s work arrangements (working from home or working from the physical workplace), the employer duties under the Ontario Election Act (the Act) to accommodate staff on election day are unchanged.
Under section 6 of the Act, every employee who is eligible to vote is entitled, during voting hours on polling day, to have three consecutive hours for the purpose of casting his or her vote. If the employee’s work hours do not allow for those three consecutive hours, his or her employer shall allow the time off for voting.
While many people interpret this section to mean that employers must provide employees with time off to vote, this is not always the case.
The section only requires that the voter (or employee) have three consecutive hours free from work during voting hours; it does not necessarily require that they be during the workday. For example, if an employee works 9:00am to 5:00pm and the polls are open from 9:00am to 9:00pm (these are the actual polling hours scheduled for June 2nd), the employee has three consecutive hours after work to vote and the employer does not have to give them any time off.
Alternatively, employees who work shift work or overtime hours will likely require time off for voting. Employers can choose to give these workers three consecutive hours off work in the form of a late start time, mid-day break, or allow them to leave work early.
The Act says if time off for voting is required during work hours, it is chosen at the convenience of the employer, not the employee. Employers may not make a deduction from the pay of an employee, or impose a penalty, for the time that the employee has taken off work for voting.
What happens if an employer does not comply?
Employers should be aware that if they refuse to provide employees with three consecutive hours to vote, or if they deduct an employee’s pay or punish them for taking the time provided to them, it may result in an offence under the Act. The punishment for these offences could lead to a fine of up to $5,000 per violation.
Please note that this fine is increased to a maximum of $25,000 or two years in jail if the employer is convicted for refusing to allow employees time off to vote.
What steps is Elections Ontario taking to reduce COVID-19 exposure during Ontario election 2022?
Despite the fact that most of the COVID-19 restrictions in the province have expired, Elections Ontario is still taking precautions to ensure the health and safety for both electors and election officials. Preventative measures such as physical distancing, the frequent disinfecting of high-touch surfaces, and having polling staff behind plexiglass barriers will be implemented during the 2022 Ontario general election. If eligible Ontarians would rather vote by mail to avoid the polls altogether, they can apply now.
Do Ontarians have the option to vote by mail?
Yes. Similar to the 2021 federal election that took place in September, Ontarians have the option of voting by mail to decrease the potential of COVID-19 exposure at the polls. The application to vote by mail became available on May 4, 2022. It can be found on the Elections Ontario website.
It is important to note that the deadline to apply to vote by mail is 6:00pm on May 27, 2022. All mail-in voting kits must be completed by 6:00pm on June 2nd (election day) to be counted. Once the individual has successfully applied to vote by mail, they will be unable to choose another voting option.
Will masking and proof of vaccination be required to vote during Ontario election 2022?
While Elections Ontario continues to uphold health and safety in the above-noted ways, they are also complying with the recommendations of the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health on masks and proof of vaccination. When individuals go to vote, masks will not be required at the polling stations. Voters will not be asked to show proof of vaccination.
Do you have further questions about employer obligations on Ontario election day?
Peninsula can help. Our experts can assist you with company policies and with any other human resource management, health & safety, or employment advice you may need. To learn more about how our services can benefit your business, call us today at 1 (833) 247-3652.