Health in the workplace has gone well beyond the traditional health and safety goals of keeping employees physically safe. We are now in an age where good employee wellbeing policies consider individual physical and mental fitness. Indeed, they are seen as vital to creating long-term sustainable businesses filled with productive employees, especially in high-stress or high-turnover industries. Employee assistance programs are increasingly common.
So, where does workplace drugs testing fit in?
According to the TUC: “The most effective way of ensuring that drugs are not a problem in the workplace is to have a comprehensive drugs and alcohol policy that seeks to support those that need help in a non-judgmental way.” Performing any drugs testing in a sensitive way is vital. It is also important to make sure your policy is clear on its procedure following a positive test – to check whether the result is a result of medication or an alternative source.
Wellbeing in body and mind
Drug use, whether recreational or a long-term habit, has the potential to severely impact on an individual’s mental health. So, it stands to reason that educating managers in a range of skills has wide-ranging benefits. This could include: how to spot signs of drug use; where workplace drugs and alcohol testing fits with a company’s wellness policy; how to support workers who seek help; and signposting to expert advice.
- You may also like: Drug testing in the UK’s construction industry: What are the rules and regulations?
A 2019 Employee Wellbeing Research survey found a 57% growth in the number of firms introducing a dedicated health and wellbeing component to their website since 2018. Much investment has been focused on benefits around employees’ mental health, with nearly half (45.9%) of employers having a dedicated mental health strategy in place – up from 15.8% in 2018.
In addition, if an employer has a well-regarded wellbeing program that promotes healthy lifestyles, this can create positive peer pressure for people to adopt healthy habits.
Supporting employees struggling with substance abuse
Discovering that an employee has a substance abuse problem can be daunting. Employers need to work out what to do for the best for that individual as well as consider any potential impact on colleagues.
In their useful guide, Drugs, alcohol and tobacco: a toolkit for employers, Business in The Community highlight the best practice for dealing with this complex situation. The guide suggests:
- Maintaining confidentiality, as with any health condition
- Being aware it will be hard for someone to admit to a problem
- As far as possible, treat drug misuse as a health issue rather than a disciplinary issue
- Disciplinary action is a last resort. You may be at risk of unfair dismissal if you offer no help. However, consider temporary reassignment if safety may be compromised.
- It may be more cost effective to allow someone time off to get specialist help, compared to recruiting and training a replacement.
- Encouraging the individual to seek help from Occupational Health & Safety, an employee assistance program, their GP, or a specialist agency
- Ensuring managers and employees are on-board with providing support.
In a context such as this, workplace drugs testing can form part of a planned support package to support employee wellbeing.
Building productive and happy teams
The benefits to an individual receiving support from an employer are clear. Having a job, and therefore a routine, significantly speeds up an individual’s recovery, as well as reduces financial and relationship stress. They are also likely to be happier when performing well at work, boosting self esteem.
But what about the benefits to the workplace as a whole?
A healthy team working at full tilt is great for morale. And there’s less risk of resentment building from team mates due to a colleague not pulling their weight, or being perceived to do so.
Supporting an employee on the path to recovery or rehabilitation from substance abuse sends a powerful message about your values as an employer. A culture of support and openness can encourage other employees to be open about personal issues that might affect work performance at a much earlier stage.
Importantly, an employer with a reputation for caring about the general health and wellness of its team will find it much easier to both attract and retain staff.
Cansford Labs offer a range of reliable drug and alcohol tests.
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