Too busy to vote? Your boss has to give you time to vote on Oct. 19

Canadians head to the polls on October 19.
Canadians head to the polls on October 19. Jens Schlueter/Getty Images

Canadians go to the ballot box on Oct. 19 to choose which candidate they think is best suited to represent them in Ottawa.

Would you like to vote, but you have to work, so you can’t? Well, you’re in luck, federal law requires that your employer let you out to vote.

Despite that – a large portion of people don’t vote, and when asked, blame it on their jobs or being too busy. A survey of voters by Elections Canada following the 2011 general election found 60 per cent of non-voters blamed “everyday life issues.”

Of them, 13 per cent blamed their work or school schedules, and 10 per cent said they were too busy.

Here’s how that works.

It has to be three consecutive hours

According to Elections Canada, an employee must be given three consecutive hours to vote that can be taken at any time during the work day.

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Voting hours across Canada (all times local):

  • Newfoundland Time: 8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
  • Atlantic Time: 8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
  • Eastern Time: 9:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
  • Central Time*: 8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
  • Mountain Time*: 7:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
  • Pacific Time: 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Let’s say you live in Ontario and work from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. – you wouldn’t have three consecutive hours on one side of your shift to vote, so your employer must accommodate you somehow, either letting you go a half-hour early, or letting you start later in the morning.  Or they can give you three hours during the day to vote.

READ MORE: You can vote right now if you want to — here’s what you need to know

Everyone gets to vote

This law applies to everyone but the exemption does not apply in the transportation industry if four conditions are met, including the employer is a company that transports goods or passengers by land, air, or water, the employee doesn’t work in their polling division, the employee is in the operations of a means of transportation, and the time off cannot be allowed without interfering in the service.

But your employer says when

But you can’t just get up and leave work early or come in late – according to Elections Canada, your employer gets to decide when you can vote if you need time off.

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You can’t lose pay for going to vote, but your employer can be fined heavily for not letting you vote or docking your pay, with fines reaching a maximum of $2,000 and/or three months in jail.