A provincial election has been called in British Columbia for October 24, 2020. Although this year's election falls on a Saturday, many employees may find that their work schedules conflict with regular voting hours. Below is a brief overview of British Columbia's Election Act and an employee's entitlement to vote.
Taking the Time to Vote
Section 74 of the BC Election Act provides that employees are entitled to four consecutive hours free from work to vote in a provincial election. Come Saturday, October 24th, this means employers must take steps to ensure that all employees that wish to cast their ballot in person are given a four-hour window between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to do so.
Time Off From Work
Employers should keep in mind that the Election Act allows them to schedule a four-hour period that "best suits the convenience" of their operations. What's more, any time an employee has before or after their shift may count towards the four-hour period they are entitled to vote. In other words, depending on the start and end times of an employee's shift, an employer can schedule voting time that minimizes time away from work.
For example, if an employee's shift does not start until noon, the employee is question would have four consecutive hours before the start of their shift to vote; the employer would therefore be relieved of its obligation to provide any additional time off. Similarly, if an employee was scheduled to work from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., the employer could allow the employee to leave their shift two hours early (4 p.m.) and still meet the statutory requirement to provide the employee with a four-hour window to vote (from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in this example).
Beware Wage Deductions
It is worth highlighting that an employer cannot penalize, or deduct wages from, an employee:
- — for any time the employee is provided away from work to vote; or
- — for taking the full four hours to vote.
How Can I Vote?
Advanced election polls are now closed. Eligible individuals can vote in-person between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday, October 24th. To find your nearest election poll go to Elections.ca.
Individuals may also vote by mail or by attending a district electoral office:
Any voter in the province can request a vote-by-mail package from Elections BC online or by calling Voter Services at 1-800-661-8683.
Please note, all mail-in ballots must be received by Elections BC by 8 p.m. Pacific Time on Oct. 24, or your vote will not count.
District electoral office
You can vote at any district electoral office in the province from now until 4 p.m. Pacific time on October 24. Offices will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.
See the full list of district electoral offices.
COVID-19 Safety Measures
To protect the health and wellbeing of voters who choose to cast their vote in person, Elections BC has stated that all voting places and district electoral offices will have protection measures in place. These measures include physical distancing, capacity limits, protective barriers, hand sanitizing stations, and frequent cleaning of voting stations and frequently touched surfaces. Additionally, election officials will be wearing personal protective equipment (such as masks and face visors) and are trained on safe workplace guidelines and pandemic protocols.
When visiting a voting place, voters are encouraged to wear a mask and may bring in their own pen or pencil to mark their ballot.
If you are ill or self-isolating, BC Elections is requesting that you do not visit a voting place and instead call 1.800.661.8683 for assistance.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.