An Employer’s Guide to Substance Abuse Policies

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Nearly 21 million Americans have substance abuse disorders, and three-fourths of them are employed, according to the U.S. Surgeon General. These statistics involve real people. If some of them work for you, the impact to your small or mid-sized business can be enormous.

Workers with substance use disorders miss nearly 50% more work than their peers do. Losses to companies due to employees’ drug- and alcohol-related abuse totals $100 billion a year. The losses can be more than financial. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reports that approximately 16% of emergency room patients injured at work had alcohol in their system, and that at least 11% of workplace fatality victims had been drinking.

Human Resources Suspected Drug and Alcohol Use at Work

Why Your Business Should Have a Drug and Alcohol Policy

Your business can’t control an employee’s drug or alcohol use. You may choose to assist workers who struggle with these issues, and your workplace certainly should have a substance abuse policy, which helps your company:

· Comply with potential legal and insurance requirements.

· Reduce workplace accidents and boost productivity.

· Provide a clear point of reference if the policy is challenged.

· Protect against some employee legal claims.

· Emphasize your commitment to a drug-free workplace and explain your position to employees.

What to Include in Your Substance Abuse Policy

An effective substance abuse policy includes:

· A statement of purpose and goals

· A stated expectation that every employee must abide by the policy provisions

· Other expectations and prohibitions

· Definitions of key terms

· Disciplinary consequences for anyone who violates the policy

Opioids int he Worplace - steps employers can take to reduce employee substance abuse

Use language that clearly sets restrictions on the acceptable use or nonuse of specific substances in the workplace. Sometimes, including a short provision in your company’s employee handbook can suffice, so long as it is provided to and available to all staff members. Posting the information at worksites and on company intranets and including it in new employee orientation materials are other effective ways to disseminate a substance abuse policy.

Sample Substance Abuse Provision

While it’s a good idea to consult an HR expert or legal counsel before finalizing your policy, you may want to start with a short but clear-cut provision such as:

The illegal use, sale, possession, or distribution of drugs or the use, sale, possession or distribution of alcohol is improper during work, on Company property, or at Company functions and will be considered grounds for immediate termination. Employees are prohibited from reporting to work, or working, under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In addition to illegal drugs and alcohol, caution should be taken with the legal use of prescription, over-the-counter, or other legal drugs as they may affect your ability to perform your job duties. You are responsible for any instance where illegal drugs, alcohol, or even legal drugs impair your ability to perform your job duties. Use of a controlled substance is permitted so long as you take the recommended dosage as prescribed by a doctor who fully understands your job duties and the importance of safely performing them.

A substance abuse policy can help keep your workplace safe and employees informed about what constitutes appropriate behavior on the job. Clear, concise language will help employees readily understand the rules and expectations regarding controlled substances at work, helping them feel secure, engaged and valued.

Lacey Conner

Written by Lacey Conner