Employers are at risk of breaching the Equality Act over their approach to prescription cannabis patients, according to a new report from the Cannabis Industry Council (CIC).
The report, titled ‘The Use of Prescription Cannabis at Work’, claims that employers must provide reasonable adjustments to accommodate those with disabilities. Yet this is not typical employer practice towards prescription cannabis patients, who often have chronic pain and disabilities.
The CIC calls on employers to treat prescription cannabis patients like any other medical patients, and to have regard to their legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010 and the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
There are thought to be between 20,000 and 30,000 people prescribed medical cannabis in the UK by private specialist clinics, and around 1,000 patients annually receive NHS prescriptions. Despite the rise in medicinal cannabis use the report suggests that employers have a lack of knowledge of the existence of legal cannabis-based medications, concerns surrounding impairment, and uncertainty around health and safety consequences. Especially for employees who drive vehicles, operate heavy machinery or have other health and safety and performance requirements.
Report authors Mohammad Wasway of The Sanskara Platform and Guy Coxall of Seed Our Future said: “We have heard from many concerned and vulnerable patients who have been harassed and mistreated by their employers simply for taking their prescription medication.
“We urge businesses to support their employees, and implement sensible and proportionate solutions that will improve employee wellbeing and productivity.”
Since 2018, specialist doctors have been allowed to prescribe cannabis medicines to their patients, who are then legally allowed to possess and consume this medication. Employers who fail to uphold the workplace rights of patients, including both employees and interview candidates, are at risk of being taken to an employment tribunal.
The report also offers guidance for employees on how to approach their need to consume medical cannabis at work. It states that Under the Equality Act 2010[3.5], employers may have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for employees with a disability in certain circumstances, which may include accommodating the use of prescribed medicines for medical purposes.
Employees are encouraged to follow their employer’s policy on the use of prescription medicine in the workplace, including any requirements for disclosing the use of prescription medicines. The report also states that an employer cannot compel an employee to supply a copy of the employee’s prescription for medical cannabis.
CIC Standards Working Group Chair Elisabetta Faenza said: “The Cannabis Industry Council will be working with employers and unions to uphold workplace rights for prescription cannabis patients, based on law, medicine, and basic compassion.
“Many businesses say they are committed to equality, diversity and inclusivity, yet often underdeliver. Now is the time for employers to step up and support ill and disabled employees.”