• Niche Canada

A Big Step Forward

The country moved one step closer to legalizing cannabis on November 27, when Members of Parliament passed the Cannabis Act. It’s a big step forward for Bill C-45, which now heads to the Senate for further debate.

While few are surprised that the legislation passed in the House of Commons, because the Liberal government holds the majority of votes, the move has reinforced in many people’s minds that legalization will happen soon and the country better get prepared.

And, there is plenty of work to do. Employers are among those asking tough questions, so they can develop new policies to ensure they are equipped to effectively manage this unprecedented change.

As NICHE travels the country speaking to businesses, industry and government, we’re hearing that employers need guidance and are urging all levels of government to fully consider the impact of legalization on workplaces and clarify the rights of both employers and employees.

And, there are a lot of unanswered questions. Questions like – will the current laws governing employment standards and impairment be updated to include cannabis? What restrictions will employers legally be able to place on employees? And, how should businesses balance employee privacy with safety in the workplace?

Workplace impairment will be a significant issue for a number of sectors including transportation, public safety and emergency services, health care, education and resource-based jobs that require critical thinking and decision making. To be clear, there are laws around workplace impairment in every province, but many believe these laws need to be updated.

According to recent survey by the Human Resources Professionals Association, over 45 per cent of respondents do not believe their current workplace policies adequately address the potential new issues that may arise with legalization.

In many cases, the frameworks are already in place. But, employers need proper education and new tools to operate confidently under this new regime. In some cases, this may mean new training and education programs, and grant funding for policy development.

Part of the issue is that cannabis employment policies will be developed and tested with very little data to depend on. The burden of this new area of employment policy and law should not be borne solely by employers and business owners. They will require government leadership to develop best practices for the workplace. And, collaboration is key in creating a fair and balanced system.

We are entering a new era of regulation and it’s in everyone’s best interest that we develop a solid support structure for businesses, employers and workers before legalization occurs in July 2018.