Have you ever had an employee come to work visibly not fit to work? Whether impaired due to alcohol consumption, or under influence of cannabis or any other drug (including illicit and even prescription medication), employers are entitled to expect employees to come to work in full control of their abilities.
In fact, even though cannabis is now legal, employers can still prohibit employees from reporting to work when they are under the influence of marijuana, just as they can for alcohol.
To make this rule easier to apply, we recommend that it be clearly stated in a policy on drugs and alcohol. This policy should reflect the culture, values and nature of the activities of the company. For example, in a company where the level of health and safety risk is high, a zero-tolerance policy must be put in place, without a doubt. That said, it’s possible for some companies to opt for a slightly more lenient approach if their activities provide a low level of risk (for example, permitting possession). Whatever the degree of tolerance, the policy must be clearly established, communicated and known to all.
In addition to clearly establishing the employer’s expectations regarding the influence, use, possession and distribution of cannabis in the workplace, the policy must provide for disciplinary measures that apply when the rules are not respected.
For a free example of a drug and alcohol policy template you can adapt and include in your policy manual, please fill out the form below:
Despite the implementation of a policy, it can still happen...
If, despite a clear policy, an incident occurs resulting in injury, property damage, etc. and you have reason to suspect that the employee involved was impaired at the time of the event (objective and observable facts), you may submit them to a drug and alcohol test.
In other cases, when a manager witnesses or is made aware that an employee is likely impaired, they must intervene immediately. It is therefore essential to sensitize and train first-level managers, so that they are prepared to act quickly.
Some objective signs of impairment
Lack of coordination
After having validated their impression, with the help of another manager for example, the manager must meet the employee to address the subject directly. If the employee is unable to discuss, they must return home and the meeting should be postponed until the employee’s condition allows it. It is important to ensure the safe transportation of the employee to their home. If they’re not able to work, they really shouldn’t be driving!
You would like to provide your managers with the right tools to recognize the signs of impairment and the knowledge to deal appropriately with these situations when they do occur?
If, during the meeting, the employee mentions that they have a drug or alcohol addiction, they should be directed to their doctor to obtain the necessary care and support. Upon presentation of the appropriate documentation to support their claim, the issue would then be treated as a medical condition. If the company offers an employee assistance program, the employee should also be referred to it.
If, on the other hand, the employee denies that they’re impaired despite the objective signs observed or minimizes the impact that this may have on their work, the employer should withdraw them until they are fit to work and plan a meeting with them to discuss the next steps to take, as provided in the policy. In this case, the issue would be dealt with as a disciplinary matter.
In addition to having a clear policy known to all employees, the employer must ensure that their managers are equipped to recognize the signs of impairment and able to intervene quickly.
As a best practice we recommend that any employee not meeting performance standards, regardless of the reason, should be met by his/her manager for a frank conversation about expectations, which hopefully was clearly established beforehand. Also, giving employees the opportunity to express themselves during these meetings will allow managers to better understand their reality, prevent sensitive situations before they become problematic, while getting feedback on the employee’s needs for support.
It is in the employers’ best interest to adapt their actions to each situation and think prevention, rather than being caught off guard.