MEETING THE CHALLENGES
As employers, many of you are concerned about the impact of cannabis legalization on job sites: higher absenteeism or productivity losses, for example. What should you be doing to be well prepared?
To help you answer all your questions regarding legalization and its potential impacts on your job sites, this section summarizes your obligations and those of your employees, and provides guidelines on adopting an internal policy, screening tests and detecting cannabis.
Your obligations as an employer
You are obligated to maintain your employees’ health and safety as well as their physical and psychological well-being. When your workers sign a contract of employment, they commit to performing tasks under your supervision in return for remuneration. Consequently, you are responsible for preventing accident risk on job sites. To that end, we recommend that you adopt a zero-tolerance policy with regard to use and sale of cannabis in the workplace.
You employees’ obligations
Your employees’ main obligations are twofold: the obligation to perform their duties, and the obligation to work with care and diligence. With regard to the first obligation, your employees must be both physically and intellectually fit to perform their duties. That obligation is implicit in any contract of employment. Your salaried workers must also perform their duties with care and diligence. A worker who is negligent in performing their tasks is committing a wrongdoing whether or not they cause an accident.
Supreme Court decision
The Supreme Court of Canada rendered a landmark decision in Stewart v. Elk Valley Coal Corp., confirming the right of employers to rely on the provisions of an alcohol and drug policy to require that employees in safety-sensitive positions, such as those generally held by construction workers, self-disclose any addiction issues. It added that a worker cannot in every circumstance cite denial of their addiction as an argument that the employer should accommodate them.
IMPLEMENTING AN INTERNAL POLICY
To ensure the health and safety of your employees and comply with your obligations as an employer, you should implement an internal alcohol and drug policy. The purpose of doing so is to take the necessary measures to protect the health and safety of your employees as well as the public, inform employees of the dangers of drug use in the workplace, and provide for support and assistance to employees experiencing drug problems.
The purpose of doing so is to take the necessary measures to protect the health and safety of your employees as well as the public, inform employees of the dangers of drug use in the workplace, and provide for support and assistance to employees experiencing drug problems.
Some tips to achieve your objective
- Implement a zero-tolerance internal policy on the use, sale, possession, and production of cannabis in the workplace that is clear, unambiguous and familiar to all.
- Provide training to company managers using tools like an intervention guide, a checklist of signs of drug use, etc.
- Inform employees of the policy and the related provisions (group insurance, intermediary network, etc.).
- Conduct prevention and awareness efforts on the effects and consequences of cannabis use.
- Take action as soon as a situation occurs and contact your WHS or LR advisor at ACQ for advice.
What your policy should contain
- Objectives (work atmosphere, maintaining a safe workplace);
- Persons and locations covered;
- Statement of prohibition (possession, sale, distribution, use; examples of banned substances);
- Acceptable tolerance (zero or other);
- Rules setting out whether consumption is permitted during social activities (conditions, location and time);
- Disciplinary measures for breach of conduct;
- Roles and responsibilities of the employer and employee (reporting, medical prescription, drug use);
- Situations in which a screening test can be required;
- Prevention and support measures in place (EAP);
- Confidentiality and privacy protection;
- Date of coming into force.
As soon as the policy is written, you must transmit it to your employees and repeat transmission at least once a year to ensure everyone is familiar with and understands it. Each employee must sign a copy of the policy document to confirm they have read and understood it.