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It Might Take 3 Hours Just to Read the Ballot: GTA Employers’ Obligations for the 2023 Toronto Mayoral By-Election

June 13, 2023 Employment & Labour Relations Bulletin 2 minute read

With over 100 candidates on the ballot, Toronto’s mayoral by-election is taking place on June 26, 2023. In this bulletin, we discuss the Municipal Election Act, employer obligations, and employee rights when it comes to elections and the workplace.

Employees’ Right to Vote

According to the Municipal Elections Act polling hours on Election Day are from 10AM ET to 8PM ET [1]. By law, employers are required to provide employees that are eligible voters with three consecutive hours to vote during polling hours on Election Day. If an employee’s work schedule prevents them from having three consecutive hours to vote during the allotted polling hours, employers must grant an employee’s request for paid time off to vote. [2]

Are your Employees Eligible Voters?

To vote in the 2023 by-election, a voter must be a Canadian citizen, be at least 18 years of age, not prohibited from voting under any law, and meet the appropriate residency or ownership conditions within the City of Toronto. Electors also require the appropriate photo identification.

Providing Hours Free From Work

If an employee’s schedule already provides a consecutive three-hour window during polling hours without missing work, an employer is not obligated to make any adjustments to their schedule.

Generally, employers may adjust an employee’s work schedule to ensure that an employee has the requisite three consecutive hours off in which to vote. For example, if an employee is scheduled to work between 11AM and 6PM on Election Day, an employer could:

Option 1: have the employee start work two hours later, at 1PM, and work until 8PM, or
Option 2: have the employee start work one hour earlier, at 10AM, and finish work one hour earlier, at 6PM

Both of these options provide the employee with the required three consecutive hours to vote between 10AM and 8PM.

That said, employers maintain the right to use their discretion to ensure the time off is convenient for their business. [3] Consider the example above: if the employee has a mandatory meeting at 11AM, the employer is not required to present both options. In this circumstance, option 2 is most convenient for the business.

While employers may find the allotment of three hours to vote as excessive, employers should be mindful of accessibility needs, lines and wait times, and polling locations as electors must cast their ballot at their assigned neighbourhood polling station on Election Day. These factors determine the amount of time an employee will need to vote. For example, if an employee must vote in their ward of Etobicoke-Lakeshore in the morning then commute to work in Scarborough-Rouge Park for 1PM, the employee will need an ample amount of time to vote.

As mentioned, the Municipal Elections Act does not permit an employer to “make a deduction from the employee’s pay or impose any other penalty for the absence from work” from an employee exercising their right to vote. [4]

Please contact a member of McMillan’s Employment & Labour Relations Group if you have any questions about your obligations as an employer on Election Day.

[1] Municipal Elections Act s. 46(1)
[2] s. 50(1)
[3] s. 50(2)
[4] s. 50(3)

by Dave McKechnie and Karel Peters (Summer Law Student)

A Cautionary Note

The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.

© McMillan LLP 2023


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