New PC Government announces indefinite delay to smoke-free Ontario

Leading up to Canada Day, 2018 employers should have been preparing and reviewing their workplace policies

New PC Government announces indefinite delay to smoke-free Ontario

Leading up to Canada Day, 2018 employers should have been preparing and reviewing their workplace policies to ensure that they would be in compliance with the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 which was scheduled to come into force on July 1, 2018. If you weren’t ready for these changes, Ontario’s New Government announced an indefinite pause on this legislation on July 4, 2018 to allow the government time to review the vaping regulations. This also gives employers time to prepare. We will keep you up to date on any update as they become available.

This Act was intended to replace the previous Electronic Cigarettes Act, 2015 and the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, which workplaces should already be in compliance with. These previous acts remain in force and compliance is mandatory.

The anticipated new legislation is part of Bill 174 which was an omnibus bill that also addressed the use of cannabis in Ontario and the impact of legalization on Ontario’s roads. Employers will find that many of the requirements of the new legislation are familiar. Despite this familiarity this is a good opportunity to dust off your policies and make sure that they are compliant. If you don’t have a workplace smoking policy now is also a good time to develop one.

Every employer in Ontario must ensure that no person smoke or hold lighted tobacco, medical cannabis, or use an electronic cigarette in a prohibited place. Once (or perhaps if) the Cannabis Act for Ontario is in force, employers will need to update their policies to ensure that they also state that cannabis, whether medicinal or not, will not be smoked in a prohibited place. For employers the key definition is prohibited place. Prohibited place includes, among other locations, enclosed workplaces. An enclosed workplace includes a vehicle used for company purposes.

In addition to ensuring that no one breaches the above obligation, employers must also ensure the following requirements are met:

  • Give notice to each employee of the prohibition;
  • Post prescribed signs respecting the prohibition throughout the workplace including washrooms;
  • Ensure no ashtrays or similar equipment remain in the workplace with the exception of vehicles with ashtrays installed by the manufacturer;
  • Ensure that anyone who refuses to comply is not permitted to remain in the enclosed workplace; and,
  • Not retaliate against an employee who seeks enforcement.

It is the option of the employer to allow for a designated smoking area on the work property. This designated smoking area cannot be enclosed, which means it cannot have more than two walls. If a designated smoking area is offered, employers should clearly communicate this to their employees.

The lawyers at CCP are experience at drafting policies to comply with legislative obligations. Click here for a list of lawyers that can assist with your policy development questions.

Click here to access CCPartners’ “Lawyers for Employers” podcasts on important issues and developments in labour and employment law.

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