Drug and Alcohol Screening in the Canadian Workplace: What You Need to Know

According to a recent survey, approximately 10% of Canadian workplaces have drug screening programs in place. The main concern for this drug testing is to reduce the number of industrial accidents due to substance abuse. Many employers state that using drugs whether on or off the job can lead to the likelihood of a job accident, or poor job performance.

According to the data collected by the (CTADS) Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol, and Drugs Survey, there was an increase in drug use in 2017 in Canadians over the age of 15 from the previous survey of 2 years prior. Cannabis was the most prevalently used illegal drug at the time.

Concerns over Legalization of Cannabis

With the recent legalization of marijuana, employers in Canada may want to implement drug screening to insure the safety of their workplace. The legalization of cannabis on October 17, 2018 renewed many employer’s concerns. In a report by the Conference Board of Canada, more than half of Canadian employers expressed concern about the implications of legalized marijuana on the workplace. The legalization of cannabis for recreational use will force company leaders to rethink their current workplace policies to ensure they are providing a safe and productive work environment.

Employers will have to clearly define what constitutes being “impaired” at work. Just as alcohol is not allowed, or being in a drunk state, neither should being “high” be acceptable or allowed. However, employers need to also allow and accommodate those that need marijuana for medical reasons, though having a prescription for the use of medical marijuana does not give the employee the right to smoke in the workplace, be impaired, or compromise the health and safety of others in the workplace. To this end, employers need to educate themselves on the legislation on cannabis in the workplace.

Pre-Employment Drug Screening

Pre-employment drug screening in Canada is useful to an employer as it can pre-screen for those individuals that may pose a heightened safety risk for safety-sensitive workplaces, after being offered the job, yet before they actually begin. A safe working environment is a top priority for many companies where safety is an issue. However, employers should also consult the The Ontario Human Rights Commission (“OHRC’) policy on drug and alcohol testing before setting any new policies in place.

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