Cannabis use can send your job up in smoke
Employees should heed carefully that the Sunday afternoon cannabis joint may well result in dismissal for intoxication in the workplace, even up to 30 days later. This is a warning from SA labour experts, Jan du Toit and Mielies Steyn of Steyn Labour Relations Consultant.
Their warning follows Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo's ruling that it will not be a criminal offence for an adult person to use or be in possession of cannabis in their private space. The court has given Parliament two years to amend the relevant legislation on possession of the substance.
In the meantime, labour experts such as Du Toit and Steyn took a stance on the effect and consequences of smoking cannabis. Steyn said the employer, according to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, has a responsibility to see that an employee is at no risk to himself while at work. “If under the influence of cannabis, the employer can send you home without pay. This is subject to further disciplinary actions.” Steyn explained that the ruling to legalise cannabis is based on medical use. “It will be interesting to see if a doctor prescribed it or if the user diagnosed himself.” He also claims that research has shown that the effects of cannabis consumption vary due to a number of factors such as the method of administration, cannabis form, frequency and period of use. “Some of these effects include euphoria, relaxation, relief from stress and pain, increased appetite, and of great concern to employers, impaired motor skills, confusion, loss of concentration and decreased motivation. Cannabis may remain detectable in the bloodstream for days after consumption and can be detected between three to five days after occasional consumption and up to 15 days for heavy users and up to 30 days for chronic users.”
He said that when an employee arrives at work and appears to suffer from these effects, unlike alcohol, one cannot determine the level of impairment based on test results.
“Proof of impairment is therefore not required as with alcohol, and an employer is likely to assume that an employee is under the influence of cannabis due to its intoxicating nature. As an employee, it will not be possible to now start claiming your legal right to private consumption of cannabis. You may not enter a workplace with cannabis in your possession or consume it in private prior to reporting for duty." Based on the requirements of legislation, it is reasonable to conclude that the Constitutional Court judgment will not offer any protection to employees against disciplinary action should they act in contravention of company policy, likely stemming from legislation.”
In terms of Labour Relations Act, Schedule 8 of the Code of Good Practice, that deals with dismissal due to an employee’s incapacity at work, the degree of incapacity is relevant to the fairness of any dismissal and the cause of the incapacity may also be relevant.
In the case of certain kinds of incapacity, for example, alcoholism or drug abuse, counselling and rehabilitation may be appropriate steps for an employer to consider.
Hedley Wildeman taking “a sip of the cup”.
George Bengu smoking cannabis.