Workplace substance-use policies would help Canadians, employers: report

Loss of productivity, absenteeism, increased costs just some outcomes of unaddressed substance-use

Not enough companies have comprehensive substance-use policies and those that provide them offer inadequate measures to help struggling employees, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction says in a report aimed at bringing awareness to workplace practices before marijuana is legalized this summer.

Loss of productivity, absenteeism and increased costs are just some of the outcomes of unaddressed substance-use issues, says the report based on a review of about 800 companies, 35 publicly available policies, interviews with a dozen experts on their company policies and responses to an online survey.

Organizations that appeared to have well developed policies were typically larger and involved safety sensitive industries, including aviation, marine, rail, oil and gas, construction and law enforcement, the report says.

“Although almost all policies included disciplinary measures such as termination, many policies did not sufficiently incorporate, or were completely absent of, proactive and supportive elements such as educating employees, training managers and offering employees support options.”

But some policies recognized dependence as a disability and others included options to accommodate employees, says the report, adding some organizations have been amending policies to reflect marijuana legislation.

“Others, however, are unsure about how to move forward. Of particular concern is the difficulty in determining impairment by cannabis. Substance testing of bodily fluids only indicates the presence of THC, but does not indicate impairment, as the drug remains in an individual’s system for an extended period of time.”

In separate discussions with the centre, employers have called for more guidance from federal, provincial and territorial governments on how they can mange the change in the legal status of cannabis, the report says.

“In particular, several organizations suggested that a national standard on policies pertaining to substance use, including cannabis, would be useful. Although national guidance or standards might help, organizations still need to create policies and best practices that are tailored to their specific needs.”

READ MORE: B.C. legislates recreational marijuana sales

Company policies are typically private so more data could be analyzed in future studies, says the report, which used policies posted on the internet.

Kat Wahamaa said her 25-year-old son Joseph Taylor Wahamaa, a journeyman ironworker, overcame a drug addiction before relapsing.

She said her son feared negative consequences if he sought help, even in the midst of an opioid crisis that has particularly affected employees in the trades.

“I know that they have an employee assistance program but I also know that he was very afraid to actually even approach his employer because of the stigma that’s attached and because of the fear that he would lose work if he actually openly talked about what he was struggling with, which is a big problem,” she said.

“The programs exist, but for people to feel safe to access them, that’s huge in terms of an organizational culture.”

Her son died in August 2016 of a fentanyl overdose.

Lee Loftus, business manager of the BC Insulators, said the union makes workers aware of substance-use programs through newsletters, magazines and social media but he understands stigma keeps people from approaching employers.

“They’re not going to lose their job because they use drugs, but because they miss time,” he said.

If a company fires an employee without providing help it is breaking the law and violating human rights and collective agreements, he said.

“You have to have cause to terminate people and the trade union movement and the construction people will intervene at that state and say, ‘What have you done to help this person?’ “

Employers would have to rehire people and provide treatment, he said.

“The opioid crisis that’s underway right now has a lot of employers entering into a conversation, as with us in the trade union movement,” said Loftus, past president of the BC Building Trades.

“Employers are trying to find solutions to this, and to top it all off the legalization of marijuana is scaring the heck out of everybody. Everybody’s talking about how they’re going to manage this and how they’re going to do drug testing.”

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

North Island College issues brief statement on bomb threat

Threat forced college to close all campuses for one day

Premier wades into fishery closure debate

John Horgan questions the federal government’s approach

Horse riders resurrect public riding ring near Port Alberni

Open house planned for July 22 so public can check out Beaver Creek facility

Living with obsessive compulsive disorder

The Big Read: Vancouver Island mom calls for more mental health services as son battles OCD

Bomb threat closes North Island College campuses

“Out of an abundance of caution, all campuses are being evacuated.”

France doubles up Croatia 4-2 to win World Cup

Played in Moscow Russia, latest Fifa World Cup marks the highest scoring final since 1966

B.C. VIEWS: Making private health care illegal again

Adrian Dix battles to maintain Cuba-style medical monopoly

Almost every part of Canada’s largest national park deteriorating: federal study

Drawing on decades of research — the report lists 50 pages of citations

Activists protest outside Kinder Morgan terminal in kayaks, canoes

Tsleil-Waututh elder Ta’ah Amy George led the water ceremony from a traditional Coast Salish canoe

Canadian soccer fans brace for World Cup final between France, Croatia

First ever final for the Croatians, while it’s France’s third, going into match as betting favourite

B.C. Lions claw their way back to score 20-17 victory over Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Bombers, who beat the Lions 41-19 last week in Edmonton, fell to 2-3 with the loss

High winds, lack of rain suggest no breaks in sight for B.C. wildfire season

There were 11 new wildfires across the province over 24 hours, BC Wildfire Service officials say

UPDATE: Motorcyclist dies as fire, crash happen at same time on Vancouver Island highway

Young male motorcycle rider collides with one vehicle, then struck by another in Nanaimo

Former B.C. flight attendant protests sexual harassment outside YVR, asked to leave

Mandalena Lewis said she was handing out pamphlets outside YVR terminal when asked to leave

Most Read