Substance use in the workplace can have a devastating impact on an employee’s productivity. While creating a dangerous environment with the potential to cause catastrophic harm to others. With an estimated 15.5 million employed individuals admitting to illicit drug use, it’s important employers take the time to understand how work-related stress may be contributing to substance use and how they can help reduce work-related stressors while implementing company-wide policies that will keep their team safe.
Beyond promoting a healthy workplace environment, companies may also need to monitor substance use within the workplace, particularly when unchecked substance use can create hazards that endanger the health and safety of other employees.
When we talk about substance use in the workplace, many companies assume the best approach is to automatically turn to drug testing. However, a better solution may actually be trying to find ways to address some of the issues causing employees to experience work-related stress. By nourishing a healthy work-life balance, companies can alleviate a significant amount of stress their employees deal with day-to-day. Whether through a flexible schedule or generous PTO (and encouragement to use it), companies that encourage a healthy work-life balance enable employees to feel supported as they juggle their work and family obligations.
Employers can also promote mental and physical health in the workplace in a variety of ways. By offering on-site meditation and wellness workshops, companies not only offer resources for overcoming stress but also create opportunities for stronger interpersonal relationships. Developing Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) creates resources for employees struggling with work-related and personal stressors. Finally, employers can be sure to offer quality group health insurance that includes mental health services and other wellness incentives, like gym memberships, which promote both physical and mental health.
A written workplace substance use policy creates a clearly outlined list of expectations and guidelines regarding drug and alcohol use. Posted in locations accessible to all employees, this written policy should provide clear expectations for substance use, both during and after work hours, as well as consequences for violating the company’s policy. Depending on their industry, companies will need to verify their substance use policies adhere to federal laws and guidelines, including personal reporting obligations for federal employees and contractors as well as good faith efforts to meet all requirements of the Drug-Free Workplace Act.
Because of the potential safety hazards of substance use within certain industries, some companies are required to conduct regular drug-testing to ensure safe workplace practices. Those subject to the Department of Transportation’s rules regarding employees in safety-sensitive positions, labor union members subject to collective bargaining agreements, or employers that do more than $100,000 of business with the Federal government are required to comply with the Drug-Free Workplace Act. Under this act, employers are required to test within 90 days of an employee’s start date and anytime there is reasonable suspicion that an employee may be violating the substance use policy.
Beyond routine or randomized testing, it’s important employers are able to recognize the warning signs of a person struggling with substance use, which may include:
While these behaviors may indicate a person is struggling with substance abuse, employers need to be careful about making assumptions. Any one of these is cause for concern and warrants a compassionate response to understand why the employee is struggling.
An employer’s response to these behaviors will need to depend on the severity of the issue and the potential consequences of substance use on the worksite. If substance use has the potential to create safety issues that put others at risk, a more severe response may be warranted, up to and including termination. Other situations may call for more lenience, including allowing employees to seek treatment and then return to work once they are sober. In some cases, this leave may be covered under the Family Medical Leave Act.
At Clarity HR, we believe that HR should have a head and a heart. We believe that HR is more than just policies and is instead an extension of your company philosophy. Maintaining your team is at the core of your business. We help you develop and maintain clear policies that comply with legislative guidelines while maintaining your entrepreneurial spark. Contact us today to see how we can help your company—and your employees—thrive.