What Canadian Employers should know about Cannabis and the Workplace

What Canadian Employers should know about Cannabis and the Workplace

It is understandable that employers would be wary about the legalization of recreational cannabis. It is an issue that can add concerns for the employer, which are always time consuming. Employers could be asking questions like: Can I enforce a zero-tolerance cannabis policy? How can I regulate cannabis use at work? What do I do if someone gets hurt under the influence? The answers to these questions will inform them how their current workplace policies need to change or what implementations need to be added. The legalization of cannabis may seem like a massive change, but it is something that can definitely be contained and controlled consistently.

The Legal Regulations Currently in Place

There are already legal policies in place that work to make sure the workplace can stay as safe as possible. The following laws in place are:

  • The zero-tolerance policy for impaired driving involving cannabis that is held in the Canadian Criminal Code,
  • The Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations act which prohibits impairment at the workplace,
  • The rules monitoring the continuation of a smoke-free province still apply,
  • And the Human Rights Code on cannabis use that regulates cannabis consumption and accommodation policies for those that require cannabis use for medical purposes.

In addition to these policies, the employer has some opportunity to incorporate testing programs at work, but not random testing. For example, an employer can initiate pre-employment testing where the employer can demand the potential hire be tested for cannabis consumption prior to starting their work duties. These types of testing programs are permissible, but not practiced often in Ontario.

The lasting issue that employers will continue to face is the lack of definition involving cannabis and the acceptable level of impairment. There is no specified limit to cannabis impairment that is legally tolerated (or not) that extends past impaired driving restrictions.

Helpful Preparation for the Employer

The best way to avoid stress or even legal issues in the workplace is to plan ahead and make sure the reasonable steps are taken. Now, with the addition of the legalization of cannabis, it becomes another drug that must be legally defined, a new set of rules and policies that ought to be created, and more knowledge to acquire about this particular substance. Some steps an employer may want to consider may include:

  1. Accommodating employees who require cannabis for medical or disability reasons is absolutely necessary. It is not acceptable to decide not to give employees the proper accommodations they need to feel comfortable and safe at work.
  2. Updating policies to include rules surrounding cannabis use at the workplace. This may mean adding policies and altering old ones. It is even possible for the employer to have their own specified rules involving cannabis at their workplace. For example, they could have rules that state that an employee may not consume or smoke cannabis within work hours.
  3. It is possible that the employer may implement a hazard control system (if it pertains to their workplace) to prevent and plan for any future hazards that may take place.
  4. Initiating training specifically about cannabis. This could include learning things like how to handle situations involving cannabis use at the workplace.
  5. Learn how to identify cannabis use. For example, learning about side effects like poor productivity, sporadic attendance, tiredness etc. to identify possible cases.
  6. Know the rules surrounding drug testing employees. For workplaces where impaired workers could cause severe risk and danger, required drug testing for their workers is permitted. It is important to know if these regulations pertain to your workplace, because they have the potential to maintain safer working conditions.

If you have any questions about policies and regulations that should be conducted in the workplace involving the legalization of cannabis, please contact KCY at LAW by filling in an online consultation request or contact us by phone at 905-639-0999 to book your consultation today.