By Rob Starr, Big4.com Content Manager
The issues created by employees that abuse alcohol and drugs are staggering. Reduced productivity, increased time absent from work, and higher medical and workers’ compensation costs are just some of the downfalls depending on the industry you’re in. That’s to say nothing of the premature deaths and fatal accidents that can be the result of employee drug abuse.
Consider these numbers.
- The use and abuse of legal and illegal drugs costs the economy $700 billion annually in lost work productivity, crime and health care.
- Hospital emergency departments report that a full 35% of patients they see with a work related injury are defined as at risk drinkers.
- A full 24% of respondents to a federal survey reported they drank at least once during their workday in the past year.
Addressing the fallout from this wide ranging social issue has many companies looking to be proactive by implementing drug testing. A good policy can save money, increase productivity and even help those with a problem get the help they need, but you need to be aware of the legal restrictions and types of testing allowed in your state.
Nature of Addiction
Understanding the nature of addiction and that it is quite often a symptom of a deeper underlying issue will help your business develop a compassionate approach. Looking for a good example of a qualified inpatient rehab center on the Internet will help you to get a good overview of the issues surrounding any addiction.
Rehab Help Online acts as an excellent resource for any business looking to get some background knowledge and perhaps even direct someone to a treatment facility so they can get the help they need and return to work. The website offers information sections on mental health, anxiety, depression as well as their drug and alcohol rehabilitation procedures.
Still, that’s putting the cart before the horse where the workplace is concerned. Although it’s a good thing when an employer can advise someone who needs help where to go and get it, their front line responsibility is making sure they have an effective policy in place.
So how does your firm get one of these up and running?
First off, although the language might be different depending on your business and specific circumstances, there are some principles that should be included regardless of the industry that you’re involved with.
- The reason the policy is being established should be clearly laid out. Messages that point out how alcohol and drug abuse costs every employee and the company in productivity work well here.
- What’s expected of the employee needs to be made clear. For example, you should make a clear distinction between a random drug test and what might be perceived as a surprise test. Hiring a third party to draw names at an arranged date is a good idea to avoid any discrimination claims.
- Any policy violations and their consequences need to be spelled out as well. Most of the research says that firing anyone caught under the influence is the most common approach, but there are alternatives like helping them find a suitable rehab like Rehab Help Online and allowing them to return to work after the program is completed.
A cautionary note here. Any and all disciplinary actions need to be vetted carefully to make sure they aren’t contrary to the 1973 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
When everybody knows what to expect from your drug and alcohol policy, the chances are it will work smoothly. A big part of that is being clear about the conditions under which any bigger or smaller enterprise implements a drug test. A protocol works best here. Asking anyone under suspicion if they have a medical condition or disability that might cause them to act a certain way is a common starting point. Professionals who recognize the warning signs of substance abuse look for sudden shifts in behaviour, missed deadlines and taking longer lunches.
Who to Test
Part of the transparency involved in a good drug policy and testing procedure is specifying under what conditions the company intends to test. Whether it is government required or for pre-employment situations, or for any one of a number of other needs, the reasons need to be made obvious. Here’s a list of some of those:
- Site-specific testing
- As part of the return to work process.
- Client required
Consistency is one of the keys to making employees comfortable. Twenty Gallup surveys of employees carried out at the request of the Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace showed most employees were intolerant of drug and alcohol abuse and wanted their employers to provide a clean, safe environment free from alcohol and drug abuse.
Drug testing is legal and a normal procedure for applicants in bigger companies and those wishing to work in safety sensitive positions. The Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace has state guidelines available so your company can work within the requirements and laws in your area.
The Usual Suspects
As you may have already guessed, alcohol tops the list of drugs commonly misused in the workplace although marijuana and prescription drugs are climbing that scale. Although alcoholics account for a number of problems in industries like construction and food service, research shows the majority of work performance problems are linked to those without a drinking problem who have overindulged
Prescription drugs or even over-the-counter medications always carry a risk. The reactions to these drugs are different from person to person and employees should always follow a doctor’s advice. Long-term use of some antidepressants can have serious consequences on work performance.
Finally, here’s a few more staggering numbers to consider if you’re sitting on the fence about implementing a drug and alcohol abuse policy. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) reports that somewhere in the neighborhood of 70% of the almost 15 million people who use illegal drugs have a job. Looming on the horizon is the fact that twenty states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing medical marijuana and several states have approved its recreational use.