Toronto residents will head to the polls on Monday, June 26, 2023, to cast their vote in the 2023 Toronto mayoral by-election. The Ontario Municipal Elections Act, 1996 (the “Act”) provides every employee that is eligible to vote with three consecutive hours away from work while polls are open on election day to cast their vote. In some cases, employers may be required to provide paid time off to vote to eligible employees. Here’s what you need to know.
Who is Eligible?
To be eligible to vote in the 2023 Toronto mayoral election, employees must be:
- a Canadian citizen; and
- at least 18 years old; and
- a resident in the city of Toronto; or
- a non-resident of Toronto, but they or their spouse owns or rents property in the city; and
- not prohibited from voting under any law.
Required Time Off from Work to Vote
Pursuant to the Act, voting hours on June 26, 2023 begin at 10:00 a.m. and end at 8:00 p.m. If an employee’s regular work hours allow for three consecutive hours to vote within the voting hours on election day, then the employer has met their obligation under the Act and no time off is required. For example, if an employee normally works from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., they will have a three consecutive hour block between 5 p.m. and the end of voting at 8 p.m. to cast their ballot, and the employer would have no obligation to provide time off work.
However, an employee with a work schedule from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. would have only two consecutive hours to vote before polls close. In a case such as this, the employer will be required to provide them with time off such that the employee has three consecutive hours to vote in accordance with the Act. This would most easily be achieved by permitting the employee to leave work one hour early.
Employers reserve the right to choose when to provide the three consecutive hours depending on the needs of the business. In the above example, if the employer would rather the employee take three consecutive hours in the morning, they could allow the employee to begin work at 1 p.m. This would give the employee a three consecutive hour block of voting time from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Either way, the employer has satisfied their obligations under the Act.
No Deductions in Pay
If an employee is provided time off to vote, employees are entitled to their full pay as if they had worked a full day. Employers may in no way penalize employees who exercise their right to vote.
Employers of unionized employees should review their collective agreement, as it could include a provision that provides unionized employees with more time off to vote than the three consecutive hours provided for in the Act.
Penalty for Non-Compliance
Employers in contravention of the Act could be convicted of an offence under the Act and made liable to the following penalties:
- For an individual, a fine of up to $25,000 or, for any offence that the presiding judge finds that the individual committed knowingly, imprisonment for a term of up to six months; or
- For a corporation or trade union, a fine of up to $50,000 in addition to any other penalty provided for in the Act.
Employers should review employee schedules for June 26, 2023 to ensure they are meeting their obligations to provide employees with three consecutive hours to vote in accordance with the Act and to minimize potential scheduling conflicts.
It is recommended that employers of unionized employees review their collective agreements in case they contain provisions requiring additional time off work, in excess of the three consecutive hour requirement outlined in the Act.
This blog is provided as an information service and summary of workplace legal issues.
This information is not intended as legal advice.