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Addiction in the Workplace

In Canada, under the Code, drug and alcohol addiction are considered disabilities (OHRC, 2019). Contrary to popular belief, not all addicts are covered as disabled people under the code. Casual substance abusers or people using drugs for recreational use are not considered disabled.  In British Columbia, an employee is protected by the Code under the following conditions. If a person has disclosed their addiction to their employer, the employer is expected to support their treatment. A person also has to express voluntary interest in seeking treatment.

Employers in the workplace can accommodate the disability in a variety of ways to ensure that the disabled employees continue to enjoy a productive life. Taking British Columbia as a case study, employees have a number of disability management programs that help them to return back to work. Employers are expected by law to provide the management program and the smaller companies have to outsource the program if unable to provide them on their own, just to comply with the law (Picotte, 2018). The addicted employee however, has to be a voluntary member to the treatment plan and progress monitoring before they are cleared and allowed back to work.Addiction in the Workplace

Accommodations are of a wide nature especially in the workplace. Some examples include giving the recovering addict alternative work, giving them time off to attend recovery meetings, allowing them to go on disability leave when they need it, giving them enough breaks for medication, apportioning them training that helps in their recovery, communicating with them in different ways and alternating their regular supervision to one that understands their current predicament. The employer can also modify the subject’s former duties, change the specific area the employee works and provide assistance through coaching or an assistance program that might help the employee focus better on the job (OHRC, 2019). The work of an employer does not have to end at the office as there are other ways that they can help accommodate the recovering employee. These ways include helping them with housing arrangement, making good decisions, improving their work policies and modifying company requirements so that they may fit in.

In all accommodation processes  and forms chosen, an employer is expected by law not to discriminate against the employee, treat the person as an individual and not as a group, allow the employee a chance to participate in the recovery process without stressing them and respect the disabled’s dignity(OHRC, 2019).  Canada is one of the countries in the world with very clear provisions for accommodating addiction as a disability in the workplace. While employers strive to provide the best environment for overcoming addiction, the employee is expected to put in work in their recovery process.


OHRC, O. (2019). 4. Recognizing mental health disabilities and addictions. Retrieved from

OHRC, O. (2019). 13. Duty to accommodate. Retrieved from

Picotte, A. (2018). Accommodating Addiction in the Workplace | Here to Help. Retrieved from