Legislatively speaking, a lot has happened in the Ontario workplace law space over the past year. The biggest shake-ups being the Bill 148 changes to the Employment Standards Act and today’s legalization of recreational cannabis. The state of workplace law continues to evolve as the Doug Ford government takes steps to undo the Liberal legislation.

Bill 148 on the Chopping Block

You can read all about Bill 148 on our blog here. Bill 148 ushered in lots of changes, probably the most significant being the increase in the Ontario minimum wage from $11.60 to $14.00. The general minimum wage was set to increase again to $15.00 on January 1, 2019, but the Ford government has announced that this increase will be indefinitely postponed and further that the Bill 148 changes will be “scrapped.” No legislation has been tabled to undo Bill 148 just yet, but it is no doubt coming. We will keep you posted.

Changes to Ontario’s Cannabis Laws

The Ontario Cannabis Act seems to be one other piece of Liberal legislation that Doug Ford does not much like. Today the Cannabis Act comes, in its Liberal form, into force. The Ford government’s comments on their plans to change it have created some confusion about what exactly the law is today.

The current law on recreational cannabis is as set out by the Ontario Liberals. It is more restrictive than the changes tabled by the Ford government. Today recreational cannabis can be legally bought ONLY online through the Ontario Cannabis Store and it can only be legally consumed in private residences or the outdoor space of a private residence. The proposed changes to the law would allow private retail sales of cannabis and legal consumption of cannabis basically anywhere you can smoke a cigarette. It is anticipated that these changes will be in place by April 2019.   

Cannabis and the Workplace

Consumption of cannabis in the workplace is not legally permitted and that is not expected to change. While in most cases employers cannot regulate an employee’s off-duty activities, employees do need to be fit to work, in a sober, safe and effective manner.

Employers can restrict or prohibit alcohol and drug use in the workplace through policies. However, under the current law, people are legally allowed to carry up to 30 grams of cannabis on their person. We can anticipate that cannabis will become a fairly normal host gift, like a bottle of wine. Employers who do not want employees bringing cannabis into work (even if they aren’t going to use it there) will need to set this out clearly in a policy and educate employees about expectations and consequences for breaking the policy.