Addiction in the workplace is a very common thing and understanding how to deal with an employee or person whose suffering is important. Here are some tips on how to do so.
1. Don't ignore the problem. For employers, it is easy to want to turn a blind eye to substance abuse problems at work. Unfortunately, this approach doesn't work. Letting the problem go will only result in worse issues further down the road. Employees who are allowed to get away with substance abuse on the job have little or no incentive to change their behaviour. Anytime you suspect that an employee is abusing drugs or alcohol, you should have a plan in place for how to address the issue head-on. Usually, this means developing a substance abuse policy for your business and having an employee assistance program in place.
2. Develop an official policy for your business that addresses substance abuse. Avoid including the words "drug-free" in the name of your policy since this implies that assistance is not available for employees who are battling an addiction. Instead, make sure that employees not only understand that the use of drugs or alcohol is prohibited but also that there is treatment available. From employee assistance programs to counselling or rehab programs, employees should know that they can get the help that they need. There are traditional programmes and also non 12 step drug rehab available nowadays - it's about deciding what the person wants after all.
3. Understand the challenges associated with prescription drugs. One of the hardest parts of regulating prescription drugs in the workplace is that they are legal. Unfortunately, some prescription medications can negatively impact the ability of an employee to perform their job safely. In some cases, prescription medications can also be abused.
If one of your employees is acting erratically, it is important to understand the source of their behaviour. Instead of assuming that they have a substance abuse problem, find out whether or not they have a medical condition that requires prescription medication. If so, the medication may be contributing to their behaviour. Dealing with these situations can be a little bit challenging, which is why it is good to work with a lawyer throughout the process to make sure that the employee's rights are being protected.
4. Think about adding drug testing prior to employment. After you offer someone a job, make sure that they understand that they will be subjected to a drug test before they begin working. This can help reduce problems with addiction in the workplace. No matter how well you screen your employees, however, you still may encounter substance abuse problems. That is why it is so important to have a clearly written policy in place. That way, you have a plan of action that you can rely on when you need to address any problems that may arise.
5. Decide if drug testing is appropriate after accidents or in cases where there is a reasonable amount of suspicion. Typically, substance abuse policies are most beneficial if they allow employers to perform drug tests after accidents or when an employee is suspected of being impaired on-the-job. The guidelines for this type of testing need to be clearly written to ensure that there is a well-defined protocol to follow.
Working with a drug testing company that is located near your business can make it quick and convenient to have drug tests performed. It is also important to educate anyone who is working in a management role about the signs and symptoms to look for that could indicate a substance abuse policy. Everyone involved needs to have a clear understanding of the specific situations where drug testing is warranted.
Keep in mind, not all erratic behaviour is caused by drugs or alcohol. Certain health conditions can cause similar types of behaviour. Most of these conditions fall under the protection of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Make sure that you and all of your support staff have a thorough understanding of these conditions so that they can recognize the difference between a medical problem and a substance abuse problem.
6. Unless you are willing to seek legal advice, it is best to avoid random drug testing. At first, this type of drug testing may seem like a good safeguard against drug or alcohol problems in the workplace. In practice, however, administering these tests in accordance with the law can be extremely challenging. That is why it is important to work with a knowledgeable lawyer if you plan on implementing this type of drug testing at your place of business.
7. Check local laws regarding drug testing. Many cities have their own rules and regulations regarding drug testing. A great example of this can be seen in San Francisco. They have an ordinance that limits the type of drug testing that employers can implement if their businesses are located in the city. Employers are still free to drug test applicants without any limitations. However, there are protections in place that limit the amount of testing that can be done on current employees. Here are some of the guidelines that employers have to adhere to:
- Employees can only be drug tested if there is a reasonable reason for the test.
- Tests can only be performed when the employee's actions are endangering themselves, other people who work at the company, or the general public.
- The employee has to be given a chance to have a second test taken by a different drug testing facility to confirm the results of the first test.
8. Make sure your employees are aware of the employee assistance program. Unless you actively promote the benefits that are available through your EAP, employees might forget that those benefits exist. This is especially true when employees are already dealing with the challenges of an addiction. An easy way to overcome this problem is by periodically promoting your EAP, making sure to remind employees about the benefits that are available to them.