Employers hazy on impact of pot legalization
46 per cent of HR professionals feel their companies aren’t ready
TORONTO — Looking forward to pot being legal? Your employer likely isn’t, especially if you drive for work or operate heavy machinery.
With less than a year until recreational marijuana is slated to become legal in Canada, a new study by the Human Resources Professional Association reveals that many employers feel unprepared for the impact that increased drug use may have on the workplace.
Nearly half (or 45.9 per cent) of HR professionals do not believe their current workplace policies adequately address the potential new issues that may arise with the legalization and expected increased use of marijuana.
In fact only 11 per cent of respondents said their companies have a policy in place to address medical marijuana.
“Employers are concerned, and both governments and employers have a role to play to ensure workplaces are properly prepared for the legalization of marijuana on July 1, 2018,” said Bill Greenhalgh, the association’s chief executive.
In the report, Clearing the Haze: The Impacts of Marijuana on the Workplace, the top concerns cited by company professionals include employees operating motor vehicles and heavy machinery, decreased work performance and attendance.
The study makes 10 recommendations to governments and employers in an effort to prepare them for the increased use of marijuana, and the effects that legalization will inevitably have at work.
They include asking Ottawa to maintain two regulatory streams for medical and recreational cannabis, that employers should explore the benefits of medical marijuana coverage and ensure employers are prepared to answer questions about coverage of medical marijuana in their extended health care plans.
“Governments must ensure that issues such as the legal definition of impairment — and how to accurately test those levels — are resolved before the legalization date,” Greenhalgh said.
“On the other hand, employers must continually update and communicate their current drug policies to employees so expectations are clear,” he noted.
A zero tolerance cannabis policy is problematic in the workplace because it “could cause discrimination against employees who use cannabis to treat or relieve the symptoms of a disability,” the report states.
“We have heard from human resources professionals that strict policies and government guidelines will be critically important to safety-sensitive workplaces,” added Greenhalgh.
Unlike alcohol, there is no current consensus on safe limits for consuming cannabis, the study notes.
“While a year may sound like a lot to prepare for the legalization of marijuana, we are urging employers to act now. In terms of legalization on a broad scale, Canada is in uncharted territory,” said Greenhalgh.
In just under a year, recreational pot will be legal in Canada.