Sample substance use policy

Note: This sample policy has been provided by Imagine Canada.


Imagine Canada provides a safe and engaging work environment to all employees. This includes managing situations in which an employee may be impaired and affect the safety of themselves and others. The purpose of this policy is to communicate to employees expectations and guidelines on the use of drugs and alcohol while working or otherwise at an Imagine Canada office.

Imagine Canada recognizes prescribed medications may be required as part of a medical plan and there is a duty to accommodate when informed of work restrictions. Imagine Canada supports the early detection and treatment of employees with drug and alcohol-related issues, and supporting employees through its Employee Assistance Program.


Employees are expected to be fit for duty and perform their work safely while at an Imagine Canada office, or in another location representing or working for Imagine Canada, including while working from home.

The use of illegal drugs and alcohol while at work or working, is prohibited. Working while under the influence of a recreational drug, alcohol, or other non-prescription substance is prohibited.

Certain exceptions may apply during events where alcohol is served. If Imagine Canada hosts an event at which alcohol is served, Imagine Canada will provide taxi chits or reimburse Uber/Lyft charges, and limit the supply of alcohol as appropriate.

Medically approved drugs are permitted while working. If required, employees who are medically approved to take medication, including medical cannabis, must inform their supervisor of any expected impairment or potential risk to the workplace. Imagine Canada will work with the employee to provide accommodation as needed and ensure confidentiality.

Smoking, including medically approved cannabis, must be done within the rules of the location in which the employee is working. This could include not smoking inside the building and keeping a proper distance from entrances.


If an employee is observed as impaired, this should immediately be reported to the VP, Finance & Operations and/or CEO. The immediate requirement is to ensure workplace safety, and employees are not required to confront or to risk personal or another employee’s safety when dealing with an impaired employee.

The CEO and/or VP, Finance & Operations will ask the employee to move to a safe space (room, private office) and further assess the employee’s fitness for duty, including information which the employee may provide on their condition. Confidentiality and respect for the person’s condition is expected.

If required, the VP, Finance & Operations and/or CEO will arrange medical assistance for the impaired employee and then determine if a return to work is possible. If not, or medical assistance is not available, as in the case of alcoholic impairment, a taxi should be provided for the employee to go home. The VP, Finance & Operations and/or CEO should check to see if the employee has someone to meet them at home, if possible. If none is offered, the VP, Finance & Operations and/or CEO should communicate with the employee’s emergency contact.

Following the removal of an employee from work or the employee’s return to work, Imagine Canada will review the event as outlined in the Internal Complaints policy. It is not the intent of Imagine Canada to penalize an employee for a substance use issue but rather to ensure it is providing the right level of support with the goal of returning the employee to a fully productive role in the organization.


When there is an observed impact on an employee’s judgment, perception, motor coordination, alertness, or emotional state, an employee may be considered impaired or not fit for duty. This may include the observation of an odor of alcohol, unsteady gait, glassy or red eyes, and poor coordination.
Fit for Duty (also Fit for Work)
Free from the effects of any illicit drugs or alcohol which may affect job performance and safety in the workplace.
Any substance which can change or adversely affect the way a person acts, thinks or feels, whether obtained legally or illegally. This could include recreational cannabis (in any form), cocaine, opiates, and amphetamines.
Includes a drug obtained legally, either over the counter or through a prescription issued by an authorized medical practitioner. For this policy, medications of concern are those that inhibit a worker’s ability to perform their job safely and productively.
Any beverage containing any quantity of alcohol, including, beer, wine, and distilled spirits.


Leadership Council

  • The Leadership Council supports adherence to the Substance Use Policy and emphasizes the importance of safety at the workplace and accommodation for medical restrictions or disabilities.
  • The Leadership Council ensures awareness of the Employee Assistance Program and education on safe workplace practices.


  • Supervisors are responsible for safety in the workplace and acting to mitigate any unsafe work situation in keeping with the Workplace Health and Safety Policy.
  • Supervisors are expected to be open to employees requiring workplace accommodation, maintaining confidentiality of employee medical issues, and any employee investigations. Supervisors should not inquire on a personal medical diagnosis or drug treatment.
  • Supervisors should promote a healthy work environment at all times.


  • If an employee is medically prescribed medication which may impair or affect work performance, it is the responsibility of the employee to make their supervisor aware of any restrictions.
  • Employees are forbidden to bring illegal drugs on any Imagine Canada site or site on which they are working and representing Imagine Canada.


If an employee is unsure how to handle a situation, they should speak to their supervisor or the VP, Finance and Operations for guidance.


Reference any other policies, documents, or legislation that support the interpretation of this policy.

Effective Date

Indicate the date the policy came into effect and the date of any revisions.

Review Date

Indicate the date the policy is due to be reviewed. This will vary based upon the policy.


Indicate who approved the policy and the date of approval (for example, the board, the human resources policy committee, the executive director).


Visit our article on Drafting an HR Policy to learn more about developing HR policies.


Important: This document is an example of a policy for a small to medium-size nonprofit organization operating in Canada. While certain assumptions have been made in the creation of this policy, it is your responsibility to adapt, modify, and customize the document to suit the particular needs of your organization.

The content of this sample policy is provided for information purposes only. No legal liability or other responsibility is accepted by or on behalf of HR Intervals, Imagine Canada, or its partners for any errors, omissions, or statements made within this document. HR Intervals, Imagine Canada, and its partners accept no responsibility for any loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of reliance on such information.

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