Navigating the Organizational Impact of Legalization

In April of 2017 the Canadian Federal government proposed new legislation that will establish a legal framework for the production, distribution, sale and possession of marijuana/cannabis. Marijuana use will become legal for adults, with provinces left to determine the appropriate means for sale (likely through a regulated retailer). While there is much work to be done, the effective date of the legislation is expected to be Summer 2018.

As this groundbreaking legislation unfolds, employers need to consider the impact on the workplace. While employers should continue to expect that employees perform work duties unimpaired, they need to proactively review drug and alcohol related policies to be prepared. Given the increased complexity of this issue around legal responsibility to accommodate disabilities, organizations should consider legal consultation to ensure they are on the right side of employment and human rights legislations where there is prescribed medical use of cannabis for treatment purposes. 

Organizations will need to re-examine how they provide support for employees with drug and alcohol addiction. The consequences of legalization on addiction is not well understood but fairly debated, however at HumanaCare we are seeing a significant increase in addiction within our employer health services cases.  Through the first 5 months of 2017, there was a 40% increase in addiction related Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) cases compared with 2016. Of particular concern is the increased incidence of addiction cases for employees located in more remote and isolated communities. Many cases involving mental health have a cause and effect relationship, where substance abuse will exacerbate a situation, adding more complexity and severity (calls related to suicide increased 165% over the same period, with many having co-morbid addictions). Employers need to empower managers, supervisors and health and safety staff with knowledge and resources to effectively deal with employees that are impaired on the job and to address absenteeism due to addiction related issues. 

Employers need to take action now to review their health benefits and people strategies to identify any gaps/opportunities to ensure best-in-class support for managers and employees. Additionally, employers should look to organizational policy and procedure best practices to mitigate risk where workplace safety is a critical element to the organization.  

EFAP, Disability Support Services and education play an important role in an organization’s response to productivity, safety and employee health matters. These valuable services formulate a strategic response, allowing companies to proactively manage through challenging circumstances. Organizations must seek a partner who provides strategic guidance to lift the veil on areas of concern and build a value-driven roadmap to success.

 

About HumanaCare

HumanaCare is an integrated mental and physical wellness service provider because a compassionate, holistic, employee centered care model is a prerequisite to more improved, long lasting outcomes. Employees are subsequently less absent, more engaged and productive at work, generating a significant return on investment for their company. For our clients, we deliver improved outcomes through our Employee and Family Assistance Programs, Disability Support Services, Medical Second Opinion Services, Chronic Disease Management and Eldercare Support programs. HumanaCare has more than 38 years of Canadian healthcare experience.