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

Alberni hosts Island track and field championship

Secondary schools compete at Bob Dailey Stadium

Is Steve Nash Vancouver Island’s best athlete of all-time?

As Captain Canada gets ready to enter basketball’s Hall of Fame it’s time to debate his legacy

Who is Vancouver Island’s greatest athlete ever?

We want to know, you get to choose in a 64-athlete tournament bracket

200,000 salmon smolts released in netpens for Alberni salmon enhancement

West Coast Aquatic has released 205,000 chinook smolts into two net pens… Continue reading

Virtual simulation engages users in the event of a tsunami hitting Port Alberni

A team from the University of Victoria display a tsunami simulation at the 2018 #BCTECH Summit

VIDEO: Grand Forks shores up defences as floodwaters rise to peak levels

Canadian Forces, volunteers working to protect low-lying areas

Chilliwack Chiefs moving on to RBC Cup final after thrilling win over Ottawa

Kaden Pickering scored the winning goal in the 3rd period as Chilliwack won their semi-final 3-2.

VIDEO: As floodwaters recede, crews assess the damage to Grand Forks’ downtown

More than four dozen firefighters and building inspectors came out to help

Wellington Dukes pull off epic upset of Wenatchee at RBC Cup

The Dukes are off to the championship game after downing the Wild 2-1 Saturday at Prospera Centre.

Canada to face U.S. for bronze at world hockey championship

Canada was looking to play in the gold medal game for a fourth straight year, but saw 3-2 loss

Searchers for Vancouver Island father turn focus to Cowichan River

Cowichan SAR joined by many other SAR groups, volunteers now determined to find missing man

Vacationers urged to check for stowaway bats that could carry deadly disease

‘White-nose syndrome’ has killed millions of bats in North America, but hasn’t arrived in B.C. yet

Highway 19A closed in both directions near Union Bay

An incident involving a vehicle has shut down Highway 19A in both directions early Saturday morning.

Are B.C.’s gas prices enough to keep you from travelling May long weekend?

Gas prices in B.C. ranging from 125 cents per litre to more than 150 cents

Most Read