Over the past decade drug abuse has increased substantially, and has become much more frequent in the workplace. Drug abuse can harm a person’s health, their relationships and their ability to perform at work. An increasing number of businesses now use employee drug testing, as employers are firmly of the opinion that drugs have no place in work society.
Drug abusers are renowned for a poor work ethic, disrespectful attitude and may be tempted to steal to feed their addiction. They may already be suffering from stress, anxiety or depression, with the drugs increasing any negative feelings or behaviours. The use of drugs interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, exercise good judgement and control their behaviour. Drug users may neglect their responsibilities, take risks and get into trouble with the law. They pose a health and safety risk not just to themselves, but also to their colleagues and potentially the general public.
For the small business owner in particular, it is imperative to recruit employees who do not use recreational drugs. Employers are aware that employees under the influence of drugs can cause harm to the finances and reputation of an organisation. In order to run a business safely, successfully and legally, an owner therefore needs to be aware of drug trends in today’s workforce. Drugs are far easier to obtain than ever before, with the majority of drug users easily purchasing marijuana, opiates and other illegal stimulants. The use of prescription drugs and ‘legal highs’ has also become increasingly common.
10 years ago drug testing was almost exclusively used for safety-critical roles, however, as almost anyone could now be using or abusing drugs, increasingly tests are being used for a wide range of other employees.
In many countries there is almost no limit to private employers adopting drug testing policies for their workers. Drug testing is not for all companies. A business owner should only adopt it after careful consideration and bearing in mind any contract or insurance requirements. It is also essential to carefully draft a policy and consider any legal issues.
A company can test employees at various stages. A pre-employment test can be performed and then further screenings if an employee’s status is going to change – due to a promotion, or change of department.
Basic drug tests used by most companies involve a urine or hair sample being taken. The test is called a Five-Screen and tests for five types of drugs: cannabinoids (marijuana), cocaine (crack), opiates (heroin), amphetamines (speed) and phencyclidine (angel dust). If an employee has been using illegal drugs the day before (or even the week before) a test, that test will prove positive.
Taking the test proves an employee’s willingness to accept a company’s drug-free policies. Should the employee fail the test, they can be given the right to appeal and take the test again. If an employee confesses to having a drug problem, an employer can take the decision to suspend the employee while they access treatment. Having a balanced drug testing policy in force can only benefit a company’s profitability, reputation and future.
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