Will weed in the workplace be an issue?
Along with creating a multi-billion dollar industry, Canada’s impending legalization of adult recreational use marijuana is about to push forward wider societal changes —and not just in how we spend our leisure hours and dollars but in how the use and abuse of cannabis will play out in the workplace.
And while much is still to be decided concerning legal pot’s new role in Canadian society, it’s clear that along with law enforcement having to contend with a new set of parameters, human resources departments across the country will soon be taxed with contending with cannabis.
One noted tech entrepreneur, the co-founder of both Kobo and League, thinks we should be having a dialogue about corporate policies for cannabis use.
Last year in preparation for legalization, the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) commissioned a survey of its membership across the country and found that over 45 per cent of those polled felt that their company’s current workplace policies did not adequately address the potential issues relating to legal bud.
That speaks volumes about the need for HR departments to be better equipped to handle the increased usage of cannabis in both its medical and recreational forms (one estimate by Deloitte has the use of pot growing from 22 per cent of the population to 39 per cent).
“Given the pending legalization and knowledge gap surrounding cannabis’ benefits and harms, navigating it in the workplace is certainly a challenge to HR professionals and employers,” Serbinis told Cantech Letter recently.
“Many HR teams feel overwhelmed with the legalization of cannabis,” says Serbinis. “71 per cent do not feel prepared for the legislation and only 11 per cent have a medical marijuana policy currently in place. In addition, 89 per cent have never had a request for coverage of medical cannabis and 78 per cent have not begun to explore cannabis coverage in their benefit plan.”
The HRPA issued a report on its survey findings which contains recommendations on issues from the need for the government to set a clear legal definition of the term “impairment” and the grounds under which an employee can be tested for cannabis use to the need for more nuanced protocols concerning duty to accommodate and the role that medical marijuana should play in company benefit plans.
So far, the federal government has yet to provide guidance to employers in the form of standards or protocol, while Bill C-45, the so-called Cannabis Act, is mum on the issue of pot in the workplace.
Serbinis says League has created a toolkit to help HR departments in updating their workplace substance management policies. Ultimately, he says the main issue facing HR teams will be ensuring that they have the proper tools on hand to manage cannabis in the workplace.
“HR teams should review, if not establish, the company’s drug and alcohol policy to make sure it is all-encompassing,” he said. “They should offer employee education on cannabis usage and signs to identify if an employee is impaired, as well as maintaining an ongoing open dialogue around the usage of marijuana.”