A provincial election is scheduled to take place in British Columbia on May 14th 2013. Employers in the province should be mindful of their obligation to ensure that employees are afforded sufficient time off from work to cast their ballots.
The British Columbia Election Act entitles persons to four consecutive hours – between the hours of 8:00 am and 8:00 pm – to exercise their voting rights on election day.
What does this mean for employers?
It is important to note that this entitlement does not require an employer to provide all their employees with four hours off work. It is only in situations where an employee’s schedule does not allow for four consecutive hours free from work that a modification to the work schedule is required. For example, employees who are not scheduled to commence work until 12:00 pm (or later) and employees who are scheduled to finish work at 4:00 pm (or earlier) will not require any time off to vote.
A number of my employees will require time off to vote. Do I have flexibility in how I modify their schedules to accommodate this?
Yes. Employers have the discretion to modify an employee’s schedule in a manner that is most convenient. The employer can schedule time off for voting at the beginning of a shift, in the middle of a shift or at the end of a shift.
Am I obligated to give all of my employees this time off to vote?
No – there are some exceptions to the requirement. For example, if the voter is in such a remote location that he or she would not reasonably be able to reach a polling station during voting hours, then the employee is not entitled to any time off.
Are employees entitled to be paid if they take this time off?
Yes – an employee who is given time off in these circumstances is entitled to all regular wages in respect of time off work in order to vote. To use an example, if an employee is scheduled to work from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm, he or she may be allowed to leave work at 4:00 pm on election day in order to ensure four consecutive hours to cast a ballot. Despite having left work early, the employee is entitled to wages for their full shift in this scenario.
If you have any questions about your rights and obligations, or any general employment law queries, contact any one of the lawyers in our Labour + Employment Practice Group and they would be pleased to assist you.