The national epidemic of opioid abuse and overdoses is almost a daily feature in news media. Meanwhile, recent figures indicate that prescriptions for painkillers continue to increase in Canada. It is in this context that the Canadian Human Rights Commission recently released a new guide: Impaired at Work: Guide to Accommodating Substance Dependence. As stated at the outset of the guide, its purpose is “to help federally-regulated employers address substance dependence in the workplace in a way that is in harmony with human rights legislation.”
The definition of disability under the Canadian Human Rights Act includes “previous or existing dependence on alcohol or drugs.” It follows that federally-regulated employers have a duty to accommodate an employee with substance dependence. The Impaired at Work guide sets out a five step process to fulfilling this duty:
- Recognize the signs: Employers may observe negative changes in an employee’s behaviour, performance, and attendance at work. While these changes are not necessarily indicative of substance dependence, in some cases, the observed behaviour could be the consequence of substance dependence.