On October 24, 2022, Ontarians will head to the polls to cast their ballot in the first Ontario municipal election since October 22, 2018. As per the Association of Municipalities Ontario, municipal elections are held every four years on the fourth Monday of October.
Are all employers required to give employees time off work to vote on Ontario municipal election day?
Regardless of the employee’s work arrangements (working from home or working from the physical workplace), the employer’s duties under the Ontario Municipal Elections Act, 1996 (the “Act”) to accommodate staff on election day are unchanged.
Under section 50(1) of the Act, an elector whose hours of employment are such that he or she would not otherwise have three consecutive hours to vote on voting day is entitled to be absent from work for as long as is necessary to allow that amount of time.
This section requires that the elector (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 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and the polls are open from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm (these are the actual polling hours scheduled for October 24th), the employee has three consecutive hours after work to vote and the employer does not have to provide them with any time off.
Alternatively, employees who work shiftwork or overtime hours will likely require time off to vote. Employers can choose to give these employees three consecutive hours off work in the form of a late start time, mid-day break, or allowing them to leave work early. The Act under section 50(2) states that if time off for voting is required during the workday, it is chosen at the convenience of the employer, not the employee. Lastly, section 50(3) states that employers may not make a deduction from the pay of an employee, or impose a penalty, for the time that the employee has off for voting.
What happens if an employer does not comply?
Employers should be aware that if they refuse to provide employees with the appropriate time off to vote, or if they deduct an employee’s pay or impose punishment upon them for taking the time given to them, it may result in an offence under the Act.
The punishment for these offences could result in a fine up to $25,000, imprisonment of not more than six months, and, for a corporation or trade union that is convicted of an offence under the Act, a fine of not more than $50,000 in addition to any other penalty provided for in the Act.
Do Ontarians have the option to vote by mail?
Yes. Ontarians have the option of voting by mail to decrease the potential of COVID-19 exposure as cold and flu season begins. While the deadline to apply to vote by mail has passed, any voters with a mail-in voting package must return their package by noon on October 21, 2022, to be counted. Once the individual has successfully returned their mail-in voting package, their vote is complete and the option to vote in person is no longer available.
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.