The Canadian Mental Health Association is publishing a free resource to help employers develop new workplace impairment policies or update their existing ones.

The guide’s goal is to promote mental health and wellness in the workplace and help employers understand their legal requirements, according to a press release.

When creating policies focused on impairment, the resource recommended employers start with a definition of the term that covers what it means to be impaired and provide details of how different substances and medications, including alcohol and cannabis, can cause impairment.

Read: Mental health and substance abuse issues on the rise: survey

For organizations where employees are in safety-sensitive positions and impaired performance could result in a significant harmful incident, the guide recommended employers take time to identify the risk associated with each position and better understand the ramifications of impairment. It suggested breaking down the job into steps, identifying potential hazards and determining their preventative measures and then communicating them to employees.

The guide noted that policies should also include the concept of being fit for duty, which it defined as an employee’s ability to do their job safely and effectively without impairment due to substance use. Through policies, employers should communicate to employees the expectation that they be fit for duty while on the job and include a definition of what that means in the context of the organization and each employee’s role.

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The resource also emphasized that an employer must cover the concerns of impairment in the workplace and discourage further use while supporting an employee’s recovery. If an employee is suspected of substance use, the employer may fulfill their duty to inquire by:

  • Being respectful;
  • Ensuring the conversation is confidential;
  • Identifying concerns with the employee’s performance or behaviour;
  • Explaining the employer’s duty to accommodate all disabilities and disorders;
  • Only asking questions relevant to the employee’s need for accommodation;
  • Letting them know about any organizational supports, if available; and
  • Allowing the employee to involve their union or representative in discussions, if applicable.

Read: WSIB policy on medical cannabis takes effect

Finally, the guide noted the need to develop a protocol in the event of impairment in the workplace that clarifies the responsibilities of all parties involved, including the employer’s duties.

“Implementing a policy on impairment, inclusive of workplace implications of cannabis use, is an opportunity to foster a culture that de-stigmatizes mental health and substance-use concerns and may be the first step in an employee feeling comfortable seeking help,” said Camille Quenneville, CMHA Ontario’s chief executive officer. “We’re pleased to provide a resource that will guide organizations in developing policies that will promote mental health and wellness and ensure workers are safe and appropriately supported.”