We’d be willing to wager a bet your company has had a “no smoking” policy in effect for quite some time now. All throughout Canada, businesses are expected to have written policies and procedures entailing the prohibition of cigarette smoking within their facilities. Many buildings, in fact, prohibit smoking within nine metres of their front entrances. As you are more than likely well aware, your “no smoking” policy recently required a major update.

On October 17, 2018, marijuana became legal all throughout Canada.

As a result, it has been made the responsibility of employers to update their policies and procedures to prohibit the use of cannabis in the workplace. However, that is not their only responsibility. As Soma Ray-Ellis of The Globe and Mail reports, in the interest of safety, employers must also devote time and money to train their employees about cannabis consumption in the workplace.

“Additionally, employers must be prepared to extend training to their managerial and supervisory staff to teach them how to address issues of cannabis impairment at work, how to spot such impairment and the appropriate steps that need to be taken in response to concerns being raised,” she writes. She also notes employment policies must contain provisions for the accommodation of employers with disabilities due to addictions or medical necessities.

Drug and alcohol addictions are generally considered disabilities under human-rights legislation.

According to Ray-Ellis, they are protected from discriminatory actions by employers and co-workers. Addictions to cannabis fall into the category of “disability”. In spite of the legalization of marijuana in Canada, employers still have the right to set rules to ensure that no employees are impaired while in the workplace.

“In particular, employers may prohibit the use of marijuana at work or during working hours and may also prohibit employees from attending work while impaired,” explains go2HR.ca, “Workplace rules regarding non-medical use of marijuana may be enforced through the application of the employer’s progressive discipline policy.”

Employers do have a duty to accommodate the use of medical marijuana.

For disabled employees who require the use of medical marijuana, accommodation is required. There are, however, some limits. In addition to not being allowed to be impaired at work, employees must not compromise the safety of others or smoke in the workplace. In addition, “a prescription for medical marijuana does not entitle an employee to unexcused absences or late arrivals,” says go2HR.ca.

The site goes on to note that employers are required to attempt to find suitable workplace accommodations for disabled employees who have prescriptions for medical marijuana use. The same rule applies for any other disabled employee with a medical drug prescription. So while medical marijuana is placed on the same level as other medications, marijuana for recreational use is placed on the same level as alcohol and non-prescription drugs.

Testing for cannabis or alcohol use in the workplace can be a complicated issue.

According to a separate go2HR.ca article, employers must establish that their businesses face “enhanced safety risks”. This would involve presenting evidence of a substantial substance abuse problem in the workplace in order to justify the intrusion on employee privacy.

For more information about how to handle cannabis issues in the workplace, contact Hire Value Inc. today!