Employer, employee disconnect still exists as cannabis legalization looms

With just one week to go before recreational cannabis is legalized, a disconnect still exists between employers and employees around policies and expectations, according to a new survey by ADP Canada.

Slightly more than one-third (36 per cent) of managers surveyed said their organization is introducing or changing workplace policies and guidelines ahead of legalization. However, just 13 per cent of employees said their organization is taking these steps and 49 per cent are unsure.

Read: Consider health benefits, workplace policies as legal cannabis approaches

Some 10 per cent of of employers said they’ll allow the consumption of recreational cannabis before or during work hours, while just two per cent of employees said they expect the same. One-fifth (19 per cent) of managers said it was somewhat probable they’d partake in cannabis during work hours, a higher percentage than employees, who said they’d likely use before work (seven per cent) and during work (four per cent).

“Changes in the workplace are always difficult to navigate, but it appears cannabis legalization for recreational purposes adds a particularly complex disconnect between the expectations and intentions of employers and their employees,” said Hendrik Steenkamp, director of human resources advisory at ADP Canada, in a press release. “It’s particularly interesting to see that employees without managerial responsibilities are more reserved in their expectations of personal use during working hours than their managerial counterparts.”

In terms of awareness, 75 per cent of employers said they’re aware of formal drug and alcohol policies in their workplace, compared to 64 per cent of employees.

Read: Key steps to implementing a policy addressing marijuana in the workplace

Along regional lines, employee respondents west of Ontario were most likely to be aware of their organization’s drug and alcohol policies, while respondents from Quebec were the least likely. In Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, employees are the most likely to believe they’ll be allowed to partake in cannabis during work or before work hours, while respondents in Atlantic Canada are more likely to say their organization hadn’t decided either way whether cannabis use will be allowed during or before work.

“It’s clear, managers need to have detailed, informed and thorough conversations with employees about what constitutes acceptable behaviour in the workplace when it comes to cannabis,” said Steenkamp. “Having these conversations early on will help to set clear expectations on both sides and reduce the chance for any negative impact on workplace performance and productivity.”

The survey also found about half of managers (56 per cent) and employees (53 per cent) said they expect a rise in health and safety incidents, while 43 per cent of employers and 37 per cent of employees said they anticipate an increase in absenteeism. As well, both employers (45 per cent) and employees (48 per cent) said they expect to see a drop in productivity. And almost 45 per cent of both groups said they expect to see a drop off in the quality of work being done.

Read: One-third of Canadian employers feel prepared for legal pot: survey