Labour & Employment News & Updates

Labour and Employment Newsletter – May 2017 Special Release
Employer Obligations on Election Day

With a provincial election in Nova Scotia scheduled for May 30, 2017, employers should be aware of their obligations to allow employees sufficient time off work to vote on election day.

After months of speculation, the Nova Scotia Government called an election for Tuesday, May 30, 2017. Polls will be open across Nova Scotia from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on May 30. Section 131 of the Nova Scotia Elections Act provides that an employee who is eligible to vote is entitled to three consecutive hours off work for the purposes of casting their vote on election day. If an employee’s hours of work do not allow for three consecutive hours off, the employer must give the employee the time, with pay, to provide at least three hours off to vote. The additional time must be granted at the time of day that suits the employer.

For example, if an employee is scheduled to work from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., the employer could give the employee a half hour off at the start of his or her shift. Therefore, the employee would not start until 11:00 a.m., which allows three consecutive hours in the morning to vote (8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.). Alternatively, the employer could give the employee 1½ hours off at the end of the shift, so the employee would have his or her three consecutive hours between 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. The employee is entitled to be paid for the time off work (i.e. the half hour at the start of the shift or the hour and a half at the end of the shift, in the example used above).

For employees who start work at 11:00 a.m. or later, or who finish work at 5:00 p.m. or earlier, the employer is not required to allow any time off for voting.

An employer who prevents an employee from using his or her voting time may be charged and convicted of an offence and subject to a maximum fine of $5,000.00.

There is an exception to the requirement of an employer to provide time off to vote. Companies involved in the operation or dispatch of scheduled transportation services (trains, buses, water transport, ships or aircraft) do not have to give their employees time off to vote when doing so would interfere with the schedule of the transportation service.

While election day is May 30, there are many ways to vote ahead of time through advance polls. Advance polls will be open on Saturday, May 20 and from Monday, May 22, 2017 to Saturday, May 27. It is also possible to vote before election day by write-in ballot or by visiting an Elections Nova Scotia Returning Office.

An employer is not legally obligated under the Elections Act to provide time off to an employee to vote in an advance poll. By the same token, an employer cannot require or force an employee to participate in advance polls to avoid its election day obligations.

All employers are urged to keep these requirements in mind on May 30, 2017.

This newsletter is produced by Wickwire Holm to keep our clients and friends informed of current legal issues. It is intended for general information purposes only. In preparing and circulating this newsletter, Wickwire Holm is not engaged in rendering legal or other professional advice. Readers are urged to consult their professional advisors before taking any action on the basis of any information in this newsletter. If you have any questions or comments on the above please contact any member of our Labour and Employment Group.