Human Resources Policies
Substance Abuse Policy 2018

Category: Health and Safety
Sub-Category: General

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Policy Statement

The City of Toronto is committed to ensuring the health, safety and well-being of its employees and the safety of the public. To this end, the City makes every reasonable effort to minimize risks associated with its operations. The goals of this policy are to assist employees in overcoming alcohol and drug problems and to maintain the high standards of service provided by the City of Toronto. The policy provides a framework for education, assistance, rehabilitation and reintegration of employees who have problems with substance abuse.


The policy applies to all city employees.


Substance Abuse:

  • The use of alcohol and other drugs or substances, including marijuana, illegal substances or prescribed and over-the-counter medications that may impair performance, safety at work or the ability to drive safely.

Unfit for Duty:

  • reporting to work affected by the use of, or after-effects of, alcohol and other drugs or substances, including marijuana, illegal substances or prescribed and over-the-counter drugs which may impair performance or affect safety at work, or
  • becoming unfit for work over the course of the workday as a result of substance use

Safety Sensitive Duties:

  • Duties are considered safety sensitive when employees control or take part in any work, where the type of work or equipment used can cause a significant hazard to themselves, to co-workers, and/or to the public.


The city is committed to the prevention of substance abuse by:

  • communicating with employees about what is expected of them concerning substance abuse in the workplace
  • promoting employee health awareness and education
  • helping employees develop appropriate ways to cope with and address personal problems so as to reduce substance abuse

Work Rules Concerning Posession, Use or Effects of Substances

In order to eliminate the risk of impaired performance due to substance use, the following are prohibited for employees in all job categories:

  • use of alcohol or other drugs or substances, including marijuana, illegal substances or prescribed and over-the-counter medications that may impair performance, safety at work or the ability to drive a vehicle
  • being unfit for duty due to the use of or after-effects of the substances above
  • the distribution, offering or sale, or other possession of alcohol, marijuana or other drugs that would breach the Criminal Code, the Narcotics Control Act or other Federal or Provincial Legislation.

Assessment, Treatment and Rehabilitation

The city recognizes that alcohol and drug dependencies are treatable conditions and that early intervention greatly improves the probability of long-term recovery. Employees who suspect that they have a substance abuse problem are encouraged to seek assistance and to obtain appropriate treatment promptly before personal health, job performance or family life is compromised. Continuing and supportive aftercare has also been shown to contribute positively toward the maintenance of sobriety and the return to productive work of a person recovering from addiction.

The corporation is committed to providing confidential assessment, counselling, referral and follow-up services through Employee Health, Rehabilitation and Employee Assistance Program (EHR & EAP). EHR & EAP will provide the following services under this policy:

  • counselling to employees and their eligible family members
  • referrals for assessment, treatment and aftercare
  • support to employees who are re-integrating into the workplace following treatment

Information is kept in strictest confidence with EHR & EAP and will not be disclosed except:

  1. as authorized by the informed consent of the employee
  2. as required by law
  3. where there is a serious and imminent risk that the health or safety of the employee or others would be jeopardized

Safety-Sensitive Duties

Safety Sensitive Assessment

Where an employee may be required to perform safety sensitive duties, and there is evidence that substance abuse may be impairing job performance to the point that the employee is judged to be unfit for duty, he/she will be required to have a safety sensitive assessment. The assessment will be carried out by an external and confidential city-approved service for the purpose of determining whether or not that employee is safe to perform safety sensitive duties. The safety sensitive assessment will determine treatment recommendations or clearance to return to safety sensitive duties.

Accommodation for Employees with Safety Sensitive Duties

When a supervisor or manager has concerns regarding an employee’s fitness to perform safety sensitive duties, the employee will be removed from those duties. The division will temporarily accommodate the employee either by modifying his/her own job, if possible, or by providing an alternate job with non-safety sensitive duties until the employee is cleared to return to safety sensitive duties.

Accommodations are considered consistent with the Employment Accommodation Policy and Human Rights Code. The accommodation will be agreed to by the employee/employee representative, the division, and the human resources representative and will be maintained for a preliminary period of up to one year, with a divisional review at six months, until the employee is cleared to return to his/her regular duties by a city-approved service. The employee must agree to attend an assessment, participate in treatment and aftercare where recommended, and to work toward returning to his/her regular duties, in order to maintain placement in alternate duties.

Roles and Responsibilities


  • understand the objectives and procedures of the Substance Abuse Policy and related policies (including Attendance Management, Fleet Safety and the Municipal Alcohol Policy)
  • monitor job performance and discuss deteriorating work performance with the employee
  • take corrective action in accordance with established practices for dealing with performance or safety concerns
  • remove employees from performing safety-sensitive duties if there are indications of a safety risk
  • inform the employee about EHR & EAP services and make referrals when indicated
  • provide accommodation to employees who need temporary alternate placement while seeking substance abuse treatment and participating in aftercare


  • arrive at work fit for duty and meet satisfactory work performance and attendance standards
  • perform the duties of their job in a safe manner without risk to their co-workers, the public or the environment
  • report their use of prescription or over-the counter medication that may affect their ability to safely perform the duties of their job to the supervisor, before starting their shift
  • exercise the right to refuse work in situations where he/she believes that a co-worker is putting himself/herself or others at risk because of substance abuse to the point that health or safety is compromised as per the requirements of the Health and Safety Act
  • use EHR & EAP or other resources to resolve behavioural or health problems which adversely affect their work performance

Salary and Benefits

The city supports employees in seeking treatment and aftercare for substance abuse by providing time away from work.

Employees may use existing benefits including sick pay, vacation, floating holidays and lieu time to maintain income while attending a treatment program. When using sick time, an employee is required to provide a doctor’s note for the period of absence.

If the employee has no sick pay, vacation or lieu time, a Record of Employment will be issued by the city. The Record of Employment will enable the employee to apply for Employment Insurance.

Where To Go For Information and Guidance On The Substance Abuse Policy

Management is responsible for administering the policy. Questions or advice regarding the interpretation of the policy should be directed to Occupational Health and Safety, People Equity & Human Rights.

Approved by

Workforce Strategy Team

Date Approved

November 21, 2013


January 2, 2018

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