Queen's University IRC

Research Briefs – October 2013

Queen's University IRC - Research Briefs

   Bringing Practitioner-Focused Research to People Management Practitioners

Oct. 2013   



In This Issue

  1. Random Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace: Balancing Employee Privacy Interests with Workplace Safety
  2. Understanding Generational Differences in the Workplace: Findings and Conclusions
  3. Flashback Feature: Work and Family Issues: Beyond 'Swapping the Mopping and Sharing the Caring'
  Queen's University - October  

Random Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace: Balancing Employee Privacy Interests with Workplace Safety
Melanie D. McNaught, Partner, Filion Wakely Thorup Angeletti LLP

In modern society, safety and privacy interests frequently seem to conflict, particularly in the workplace. Random drug and alcohol testing is one instance when these interests may conflict. Employers are obligated under occupational safety legislation to provide a safe workplace for employees. The risk of workplace accidents increases if employees are working under the influence of drugs or alcohol. To mitigate that risk, some employers have implemented policies of random drug or alcohol testing. Employees and unions often object to such policies on the basis that random drug or alcohol testing infringes employee privacy interests.

Several months ago, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that employee privacy interests outweighed employer safety concerns in Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, Local 30 v Irving Pulp & Paper, Ltd., 2013 SCC 34 (“Irving”). Irving marks the first time the Supreme Court of Canada has considered workplace drug or alcohol testing. Further, Irving is a departure from some of the earlier appellate court decisions on drug and alcohol testing, which focused on the legality of such policies under human rights legislation, as opposed to privacy considerations.

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Understanding Generational Differences in the Workplace: Findings and Conclusions
Tania Saba, Professor, School of Industrial Relations, Université de Montréal

The study of generational differences has garnered increasing interest among organizations, practitioners and researchers in recent years. There are many reasons for this keen interest, including the need to manage people from several different generations, to better adapt the workplace to a multigenerational workforce, to attract and retain new talent, and to identify the working conditions that will lead to positive attitudes and behaviours among younger workers.

Since workers from different generations have always worked together, why does this situation currently appear to be raising challenges for human resource management? Three reasons are put forward. First, the different generations are said to have different values and expectations regarding work which are not easily compatible. Second, people from different generations are working together for longer periods now than they did in the past. Workers are less likely to follow the clear cut studies-work-retirement path that was formerly standard. People leave their jobs, upgrade their skills, look for new jobs, change careers, retire and then, increasingly, re-enter the labour market. Third and lastly, the difficulties stemming from this situation are brought about by discrepancies in the management practices of companies themselves. Stable, high-quality jobs are becoming scarce. Employees are no longer accumulating the funds needed to ensure financial security during retirement and find themselves having to work longer. Those who have invested in enhancing their skills and who have had unstable careers are staying in the workforce longer or taking advantage of bridge employment opportunities which delay their exit from the labour market.

In this research report, we will show that generational differences are a myth and have very little empirical support. Following a contextual overview, we will discuss the theoretical and analytical frameworks that have been used to explain the differences between the generations. We will end with some conclusions.

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Flashback Feature:
Work and Family Issues: Beyond 'Swapping the Mopping and Sharing the Caring'
Mary Lou Coates

In the 1990s, work and family issues were emerging as an important priority for employees, management, labour, and government. Pressure was building for appropriate strategies, policies and practices that recognized and effectively responded to the changing dynamics and growing interdependence between work and family obligations.

In this paper from 1991, the author examines the work and family issue from a variety of perspectives, as well as the forces of change that were driving the evolving work and family relationship. The paper looks at the concerns of employees and the employer approaches and concerns. It also examines the response of unions, including provisions in collective agreements, and government initiatives, including changes in unemployment insurance and employment standards legislation.

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2013 Programs

Negotiation Skills

Oct. 20-25, 2013
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Talent Management

Oct. 21-22, 2013

Succession Planning

Oct. 23-24, 2013

Managing Unionized Environments
Fort McMurray:

Oct. 28-30, 2013
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Organizational Design

Nov. 4-6, 2013

Advanced Human Resources

Nov. 19-21, 2013

Mastering Fact-Finding and Investigation

Nov. 19-22, 2013

NEW Linking HR Strategy to Business Strategy

Nov. 25-27, 2013

Organization Development Foundations

Nov. 25-28, 2013

Change Management

Dec. 3-6, 2013


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