Updated federal policy on substance dependence now available for Canadian employers

February 21, 2017 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Human Rights Commission

The Canadian Human Rights Commission today released Impaired at work: a guide to accommodating substance dependence

The purpose of the guide is to help Canadians employers understand, first and foremost, that substance dependence is a form of disability protected by the Canadian Human Rights Act. This means that when an employee is dependent on drugs or alcohol, an employer has an obligation to accommodate and support their recovery. 

“Substance dependence is a mental illness that affects some 21% of Canadians over the course of their lifetime. The stigma many face often prevent employees with substance dependence from coming forward and seeking help,” said Chief Commissioner, Marie-Claude Landry. “We want employers to approach substance dependence with the same understanding and compassion that would be extended to an employee with any other illness.” 

The Commission’s guide takes employers and managers through the step-by-step process of what to do if they believe an employee is impaired at work — from how to start the conversation, to when to consider accommodation, to how to ensure that job performance and workplace safety are not suffering.  

The guide also explains that in order for accommodation to work, the employee must be willing to participate in the process or take responsibility for their recovery.  It encourages employers to approach each employee’s situation on an individual basis, and to build accommodation, proactively, into the way they do business. 

The Commission’s new Guide is now available on the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s website.

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Quick Facts

  • Since 2009, nearly 10% of mental health complaints received by the Canadian Human Rights Commission have been related to substance dependence. (Source: CHRC)
  • In 2012, approximately 21.6% of Canadians met the criteria for a substance use disorder during their lifetime (Source: StatsCan)

Quotes

“Substance dependence is a mental illness that affects some 21% of Canadians over the course of their lifetime. The stigma many face often prevent employees with substance dependence from coming forward and seeking help.” 

Marie-Claude Landry, Ad. E., Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission

“We want employers to approach substance dependence with the same understanding and compassion that would be extended to an employee with any other illness.” 

Marie-Claude Landry, Ad. E., Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission

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