A federal election is fast approaching. Polls will be open from 8:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. in the Maritime Provinces on election day, October 21st. If you’re among the many employees scheduled to be at work for all or some of that time, you may be wondering if your employer is required to grant you time away from work to vote.

The short answer is yes.

The longer answer is that the Canada Elections Act, SC 2000, c 9 which governs federal elections, has several provisions which guarantee eligible voters time away from work to vote.

Eligible voters must be granted three consecutive hours away from work to vote during open polling hours. Employees whose hours of work do not allow for those three consecutive hours must be allowed the time for voting that is necessary to provide those three consecutive hours.

The time provided away from work to vote is “at the convenience of the employer.” This means that while employees are guaranteed these three consecutive hours away from work to vote, the employer can determine during which hours of the workday this right can be exercised.

Employees must be paid their regular wages for the time that they are away from work to vote. Employers cannot impose any kind of penalty on employees for taking the time to vote to which they are entitled.

The rights to time off work to vote and to not be penalized for exercising this right have sharp teeth behind them. Employers who violate these rights may be charged with a summary conviction offence punishable with a fine, a term of imprisonment, or both. The offence is a “strict liability” one, which means that the employer may be found guilty of the offence even if they did not intend to breach the Canada Elections Act.

The bottom line is that employees enjoy a strong right to time away from work to vote in the upcoming election. So, exercise your workplace and democratic rights by voting on election day.