Drug abuse can be one of the biggest roadblocks to employee productivity and is a nightmare for many employers across the globe. According to a white paper titled “Drug and Alcohol Awareness”:
- Drug abuse costs employers $ 81 billion annually;
- 70% of an estimated 14.8 million Americans who use illegal drugs are employed.
Drug abuse by an employee can lead to productivity loss, regular absence from work, injuries and traffic accidents. So, the question is how to deal with this situation? Take these measures while addressing drug abuse amongst your employees:
- Prepare a well-documented drug abuse policy that condemns drug use at work. Make every employee read and sign an agreement to make them understand the policies.
- Watch out for the signs of drug abuse amongst employees in your workplace.
- Deal promptly with employees who have a drug abuse problem.
Signs An Employee is Abusing Drugs in the Workplace
There are different signs that you can keep a watch on to identify if someone might be addicted to drugs.
- A sudden change in the behavior or personality of the employee;
- Poor hygiene;
- Poor productivity;
- Increase in number of poor decisions or bad judgment taken by the employee;
- Failure to meet deadlines or not showing up in meetings;
- Sudden display of forgetfulness or confusion.
Apart from the signs mentioned above, an employee having a drug abuse problem will also show signs of depression, anxiety or other health concerns. It is extremely critical for you as an employer to deal with the situation empathy and careful judgment.
Measures to Deal WIth Employee Drug Abuse
1. Gather Evidence
If you suspect an employee is abusing drugs, the very first thing that you need to do is to gather evidence. Remember, it is never right to approach the employee having a drug abuse problem directly, and question him regarding this habit. Rather, you should document instances where there have been performance issues with the complete account of date and time.
There are organizations who still do not have the mandate to conduct mandatory drug testing. But, if permitted, conduct a drug test. Before approaching the employee, the best approach is to review the signs of abuse with an Employee Assistance Program Counselor.
2. Schedule one-to-one meeting with the employee
Notify the date, time and place of the meeting with the employee to discuss their performance. Always ensure that you hold the meeting at a private place. Be discrete and selective while disclosing the conversation that takes place at the meeting in the organization. The key is to win the confidence of the employee to let them open up to you.
3. Start the conversation on a lighter tone
Unless there are obvious signs of job impairment by the employee, the best resort is to avoid asking the drug abuse question directly. Instead, focus on the employee’s job performance. Encourage them to tell you their part of the story. Refer the employee to the Employee Assistance Program and explain them that if their performance does not improve then there can be disciplinary action taken against them and in some circumstances, even termination.
4. Have a plan B is the employee denies drug abuse
Remember, at the very first instance the employee will never come up with the correct version of their story. So, be prepared for them to be in denial stage early on. In case, the employee denies having a drug abuse problem and also refuses to take the assistance from the Employee Assistance Program, take a note of the problems and discipline the employee, if required.
5. Encourage professional help once he/she agrees to the problem of drug abuse
After the first denial, the employee may agree to the problem of drug abuse, albeit with much intervention. The best thing in such a situation is to make them sit with colleagues and other people who are close to the addicted person. Confront them and ask them to take professional help. But, the important thing is this work-based intervention should come from a trained professional. Contact your Employee Assistance Program Counselor for more information on this subject.
6. Give the contact of drug abuse prevention agencies to the employee
There are communities who have a list of drug abuse prevention agencies and resources. Inquire from the local organizations about any educational material or recommended resources for people dealing with drug abuse. By providing a list of treatment facilities, support groups and other resources to the employee you are giving them a perfect place to restart their life.
7. Keep yourself updated with the laws pertaining to workplace drug use in your country
There are countries where addiction qualifies as a health condition under the provision of the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This means that if the employee is receiving company insurance, they are eligible for a maximum of 12 weeks of unpaid leaves without fear of losing the job. Keep yourself educated with the FMLA rules and other employee job protection laws, that protect the employees with drug abuse problems.
8. Offer total support to the employee
In order to make the employee recover from the drug abuse problem, ensure that you provide complete support to them. You can do this by providing medical insurance that consists of comprehensive health plans covering all the stages of the treatment of drug abuse disorders. Always opt for the best plans that covers treatment, counseling, aftercare and educating the employees about the dangers of drug abuse.
During the recovery stage, follow up with the employee after they graduate from rehab. After the employee completes the addiction treatment program shift them to a less stressful job. It can be a new position that does not deal with stressful situations. Give the employee enough leeway to attend outpatient counseling sessions and group meetings.
In the end, it has got to be said that dealing with an employee having a drug abuse problem is never an easy proposition for an employer. Multiple things go in the minds of the employer while taking the final call on whether to retain or fire an employee having a drug abuse problem. But, the ones who offer second chance to the employees, provide enough motivation to them in pursuing the recovery process.
cFIRST Think Tank is the team that researches and produces content for cFirst. This team comprises of seasoned content and digital design professionals and background screening industry veterans. Together we produce insightful blogs, infographics and reports meant for HR and background screening professionals.