Employees with substance abuse problems are a drain on today’s workplace. Whether it is frequent absenteeism, lower productivity, or higher medical costs, our businesses and communities are bearing a huge cost for society’s drug problems.
One of every four young Americans between the ages of 18-35 has used drugs in the past year. 20% of young workers admit to using marijuana on the job.
Even more alarming for business owners is that 1 of every 3 employees is aware of drug sales in their workplace. Many of today’s most successful drug dealers are your employees. Successful businesses study traffic patterns and set up their businesses in locations convenient to their customers. Drug dealers operate similarly, setting up business in your company breakroom or parking lot. Your workplace opens up a lucrative network of potential buyers, both your employees and their friends that they refer. Additionally, this opens the door for other problems including increased incidents of other crime, workplace violence and the corporate liability that follows.
The Cost of Substance Abuse:
Today’s businesses bear the cost of substance abuse. Nearly half of all Workers Compensation Insurance claims are related to substance abuse. Substance abuse costs companies in terms of higher workers compensation premiums, lower productivity, higher employee turnover, absenteeism, an estimated 20% higher medical benefits costs, and lower profits.
At best, an impaired employee operates at 75% of expectations. Today’s businesses operate with leaner workforces and this reduced productivity increases stress on other team members. Your overall workforce may experience higher turnover because of one employee’s problem.
What can my business do?
The Georgia Legislature has provided the roadmap and incentive to reduce these problems. If your business is a certified Drug Free Workplace, the legislature requires your insurance company to reduce your annual workers compensation premium by 7.5% every year.
Unfortunately, there are three misconceptions about Georgia’s Drug Free Workplace Program. The first is that businesses must test all employees. There are only three circumstances in which drug testing is required of your employees - pre-hire, accidents, and reasonable suspicion. Testing new employees before they begin work will likely solve many problems. Potential applicants with substance abuse problems are less likely to apply with companies that display the Drug Free Workplace Notice. Second, in the event of an accident or injury, your doctor or clinic must administer a drug test to rule out the likelihood that drugs were a factor. Finally, you must test if the employee’s supervisor has reasonable suspicion of substance abuse.
Random testing of employees is optional. However, if you random test, then establish a clear, fair plan of testing and BE CONSISTENT with that plan. Random testing means random selection, not random implementation based on your mood any given month. The worst thing that you can do is open your company to charges of discrimination by skipping a test or varying the number of employees sent for testing.
The second major misconception about the Drug Free Workplace program is that businesses must have company-wide training meetings for employees. In fact, there are solutions in the marketplace, such as payroll stuffers, that can take the place of those meetings. These newsletters are usually available through an annual subscription.
The final and biggest misconception is that the paperwork is unduly burdensome. While it may seem daunting, the underlying concepts are very simple. For busy employers, there are services that will do the work of setting up your program for a nominal fee. Ask your insurance agent for recommendations; they likely know a local source for this assistance. Insure that your consultant is willing to invest the time both up-front explaining the program and afterward as a resource for your questions.
Small businesses employ 75% of America’s workforce. We can dramatically reduce one of our nation’s biggest productivity drags by fighting substance abuse. On a local level, imagine the impact we could have on substance abuse, crime activity in our community, and our quality of life with this program. There really is no good reason for your business not to be a Drug Free Workplace!
Nat Carmack is President of BOS Staffing, Athens’ small business HR Advisors.