Creating a Drug and Alcohol Policy: A Guide for Canadian Employers

  • HR Policies
Drug and Alcohol Policy
Olivia Cicchini

Olivia Cicchini, Employment Law Expert

(Last updated )

According to data collected from the 2017 Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey, 78.2% of Canadians aged 15 and over reported drinking alcohol at least once in the last year.

As an employer, you have a responsibility to create a safe and healthy workplace, and a drug and alcohol policy is an essential component of this effort. By implementing a comprehensive drug and alcohol policy, you can reduce the risk of workplace incidents, promote employee well-being, and foster a culture of safety.

Does my workplace need a drug and alcohol policy?

Drug and alcohol abuse can have significant consequences on the workplace, including reduced productivity, increased absenteeism, and workplace accidents. It can also lead to legal liabilities and damage your company’s reputation. A drug and alcohol policy is an essential tool for preventing these negative outcomes and ensuring the safety and well-being of your employees.

Substance abuse can impair cognitive function, decrease coordination, and slow reaction times, leading to a higher likelihood of accidents, injuries, and fatalities. Furthermore, employees who use drugs or alcohol may be more likely to engage in workplace misconduct, including theft, absenteeism, and decreased productivity.

Additionally, substance abuse can impact an employee’s health and well-being, leading to higher rates of absenteeism, reduced job performance, and increased healthcare costs.

What are the legal requirements regarding drugs and alcohol in the workplace?

Although a drug and alcohol policy isn’t required by law in Canada, employers do have a legal obligation to provide a safe and healthy work environment for their employees. This is true not only at the federal level but also at the provincial level.

Federally regulated workplaces are subject to the Canada Labour Code, which sets out the requirements for protecting employee health and safety. Provinces and territories also have their own legislation that sets out similar requirements, which employers must comply with. For example, in Ontario, the Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect workers from hazards, including those associated with substance abuse.

In addition to these requirements, employers must also comply with employment and human rights legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of certain characteristics, including disability. Substance use dependence is recognized as a disability under Canadian law, and therefore employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees who struggle with substance use. The Canadian Human Rights Act and the Employment Equity Act protect federally regulated employees from discrimination based on disability. Similar legislation exists at the provincial and territorial levels as well.

Duty to disclose, inquire, and accommodate

To ensure compliance with these legal requirements, employers must establish policies and practices that prioritize employee health and safety and acknowledge substance use dependence as a disability. This includes addressing the duty to disclose, the duty to inquire, and the duty to accommodate.

The duty to disclose requires employees to inform their employer if their substance use could potentially pose a risk to themselves or others in the workplace. The duty to inquire requires employers to inquire if they suspect that an employee’s substance use is impacting their work or could pose a risk to themselves or others.

The duty to accommodate requires employers to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate an employee’s substance use dependence, such as modifying work hours or providing access to treatment and support.

Tips on creating a drug and alcohol policy

Employers should consult resources and guidance from organizations such as the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) and the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) when establishing policies and practices related to substance use. These organizations provide information and recommendations on best practices for addressing substance use in the workplace, including the development of drug and alcohol policies.

It is also important to involve employees in the creation of the policy. By soliciting feedback and input from employees, employers can create a policy that is more likely to be effective and well-received. This can be done through focus groups, surveys, or other means of communication.

There are several factors you should consider when creating a drug and alcohol policy for your workplace, including the legal framework, your company’s culture, and the nature of your business. Here are some things to keep in mind when creating a drug and alcohol policy for the workplace.

Statement of Purpose

The policy should include a clear statement of purpose, outlining your company’s commitment to a safe and healthy workplace.

Prohibited Conduct

The policy should clearly outline the types of conduct that are prohibited, including the use, possession, sale, or distribution of drugs or alcohol in the workplace.


The policy should clearly outline the consequences of violating the policy, including disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.


The policy should include a statement regarding the employer’s duty to accommodate employees with substance abuse problems, up to the point of undue hardship.


The policy should outline the procedures for handling confidential information regarding an employee’s drug or alcohol use, including who has access to the information and how it will be stored and protected.


The policy should outline the procedures for training employees on the policy, including how to recognize and report drug and alcohol use in the workplace, as well as the consequences of violating the policy.

Support and resources

The policy should provide information on support and resources available to employees who may be struggling with substance abuse, including employee assistance programs, counselling services, and treatment options.

Have questions about creating a drug and alcohol policy for your workplace?

Drug and alcohol use in the workplace is a serious issue that can affect not only the safety and productivity of your employees but also your bottom line. If you need help creating a drug and alcohol policy, Peninsula’s HR advisors can help you with policies tailored for your specific business needs. To receive answers and support for your HR and health & safety needs, call us today at: 1 (833) 247-3652

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