Manitoba: Employer Obligations on Election Day

  • Employer advice
Manitoba election employer's obligations
Charlie Herrera Vacaflor

Charlie Herrera Vacaflor, Employment Law & HR Content Senior Consultant

(Last updated )

On October 3, 2023, Manitobans will head to the poll to cast their ballot in the first provincial general election since September 2019. According to Manitoba’s Elections Act (EA), a general election must be held no later than the first Tuesday of October in the fourth calendar year following the previous election. Unless the date overlaps with a federal election period, then it can be postponed for up to six months.  

Advance voting is open for eligible Manitobans starting September 23, 2023, until September 30, 2023 (polling places are open from 8am to 8pm daily and from noon to 6pm on Saturdays). Even though turnout on advanced voting is setting new provincial records, election day will nonetheless be a source of stress for employers. Employers in Manitoba have certain obligations they must abide by on election day. Failure to comply with legislation may give rise to penalties.

Employer obligations on election day

Under Manitoba’s Elections Act (1987) eligible voters must be at least 18 years old on election day, have resided in Manitoba for at least 6-months immediately before election day, and be a resident of the electoral division in which the election is being held.

According to the EA, employees that are eligible to vote are entitled to three consecutive hours free form work to cast their ballot on election day. This means that, on request, employers must ensure they give their employees sufficient time off work to vote. These hours free from work must be during voting hours. The Elections Act establishes that all regular voting station must be open at 8am and close at 8pm on election day. This means, most employees working regular eight-hour shifts (e.g., 9am to 5pm) do not need extra time off to vote as they will likely have three hours after work to do so.

Employee’s time off from work

Employees who work differing hours may require time off. Employers are entitled to schedule an employee’s three consecutive hours on voting day. For employees that, for example, have a 10am to 6pm workday, employers may allow employees to start work an hour later or leave work an hour earlier. That time off must be paid time off. However, employers have the right to choose which period employees should take as time off. Employers must not reduce employees’ pay or subject them to disciplinary action; doing so comes at the risk of penalties. 

Written request for leave

The EA contemplates the situation where an employee is also a candidate, or an appointed election official, or they have been designated as an election volunteer by a candidate or registered political party. In any of these cases, an employee must submit a written request for time off at least five days before the required date to be granted leave.

The written request by the employee must recognize the employer’s right to seek an exemption from granting the leave. It should state that the employer has three days upon receiving the request to apply to the Manitoba Labour Board to seek an exemption. An employer that wishes to pursue an exemption claim must be ready to prove that granting leave to the employee would be seriously detrimental to the organization’s operations.

An employee that has been granted leave has the right to be reinstated to their previous position or a comparable one with no less pay or benefits once their leave ends. Employers must consider time off on leave as continuous employment for the purposes of vacation entitlements and benefits.

Consequences for non-compliance

Under section 21 of EA, an employee can make a written complaint to the Manitoba Labour Board if their employer, directly or indirectly, refuses to grant leave or interferes with their three consecutive hours to vote.

Every person who is guilty of an offence under the Elections Act is liable, on conviction, to a fine of not more than $2,000 for an individual or a fine of not more than $5,000 in the case of a corporation.

Do you have questions about your obligations on election day?

Our HR experts are ready to help with 24/7 advice and support. Whether you need assistance with understanding provincial legislation, developing new workplace policies, or updating HR documentation to meet legal compliance, we got you covered. Call today at 1(833) 247-3652 to find out more about Peninsula Canada’s services.

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