Employer Obligations Regarding Time off Work for Voting: 2020 Provincial General Election
BY: CHRIS DRINOVZ
The next BC Provincial General Election will take place on Saturday, October 24, 2020 (“General Voting Day”).
Under the s 74 of the B.C. Election Act, employers have an obligation to provide voters with four consecutive hours free from work during advance voting or on General Voting Day. We are publishing this article to help employers understand the scope of these obligations.
RIGHT TO TIME OFF
Voters are entitled to four consecutive hours free from work to vote during advance voting or on General Voting Day. Voting hours during advance voting are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time and on General Voting Day are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Pacific time.
This does not necessarily mean four hours off work. It means that there must be a four-hour period free from work during voting hours. Time off may be at the beginning or end of an employee’s shift, or unnecessary if normal working hours already provide enough time free from work to vote.
For example, if a shift ends at 4 p.m., or does not begin until noon, the employee is not entitled to any time off for voting purposes. Employers can decide when their employees can take time off to vote.
We encourage Employers to discuss with their employees in advance how they can exercise their right to vote to ensure that the requirements of the Election Act are met.
It is an offence if an employer deducts pay or penalizes employees for taking time off to vote. Employees are entitled to their regular compensation for any hours not worked during this time.
There are exceptions to the general rules outlined above. For example, if a voter is in such a remote location that they would not be able to reach any voting place during voting hours, they are not entitled to any time off for voting.
PENALTIES FOR FAILURE TO COMPLY
Failure to comply with section 74 of the Election Act is an offence and, upon conviction, an employer may be liable to a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for a term not longer than one year, or both.
If you are a unionized employer, check your Collective Agreement as it may have specific provisions applicable to your workplace, on top of your obligations to employees under the Election Act.
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