Workplace drug and alcohol policies: is it time to review yours?
Please note: This blog was written for the UK market. The Intelligent Fingerprinting Drug Screening System is currently available for forensic use only in the USA.
What is a workplace drug and alcohol policy?
A workplace drug and alcohol policy is a set of written principles which clarify an organization’s rules and procedures for dealing with alcohol and substance misuse by employees in a fair, consistent and supportive manner. There is, however, no such thing as a ‘standard policy’ and you, as an employer, should develop and implement a policy that suits your individual requirements taking into account your company’s size and type, as well as the nature and culture of your business.
Why should you have one?
Employee drug and alcohol use can have serious consequences for individuals and businesses, and employers have a moral and legal obligation to take active measures to deter and address their misuse in the workplace.
Drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace exposes not only the user to a potentially harmful situation but also co-workers, supervisors and the general public.
A comprehensive, up-to-date drug and alcohol policy that reflects the latest legislation relating to workplace health and safety is vital in helping to safeguard your workplace. Companies with an active workplace drug and alcohol policy, supported by an effective drug screening programme which deters and identifies drug use early on, can benefit from:
- Reduced risk of workplace accidents and errors caused by impaired judgment
- A more productive environment
- Reduced sickness levels and absenteeism
- Improved employee retention – saving on rehiring and training costs
- Ability to spot employees with alcohol and drug problems sooner rather than later, enabling provision of earlier intervention to support recovery
- Enhanced company safety reputation
- Enhanced company reputation as a good employer
As far as legislation is concerned, employers have a general duty under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of your employees.
What is in a drug and alcohol policy?
Having a written policy ensures there is no miscommunication or misunderstanding about where your organization, large or small, sits on the issue of alcohol and drug abuse in the workplace.
The following are key elements to include in the policy:
Aims and definition
This will be a statement on why the policy exists and who the policy applies to. The policy should apply to all employees equally, including managers and senior members of the organization. The definition will provide a clear and concise statement of exactly what constitutes alcohol and drug abuse. The employer’s objective should be to make the policy as clear as possible.
This section should make it clear who within your company is responsible for implementing the policy. Managers are usually responsible for implementing the policy in relation to their own teams, though it is often more effective when a senior employee is given overriding responsibility. It is good practice to involve all employees in helping to maintain a safer workplace by teaching them how to spot the signs of substance abuse and what to do if they suspect drug or alcohol use by a co-worker.
Rules and disciplinary action
This is the part where you can set out exactly what your organization expects from employees to ensure the workplace is kept a safe environment. You should include comment on the circumstances in which disciplinary action could be taken.
Including safeguards ensures employees are clear on situations that may require an exemption to the policy. So, for example, you as an employer recognize that relapses may occur or that absence for treatment will be regarded as normal sickness on the employee’s record.
Confidentiality and help
It is important to reassure employees that any request for support or identification of a drug or alcohol problem will be treated in strict confidence.
How can Intelligent Fingerprinting help?
If you are thinking about implementing or updating a workplace drug and alcohol policy for your business but you’re not sure where to start, then we can provide support and guidance.
We can help you create a drug and alcohol policy that provides a robust and comprehensive agreement between you and your workforce to promote a safe and drug-free environment. In addition to this, we can provide drug awareness training to help you educate your staff on spotting the signs of substance abuse in the workplace.
If you need help developing your drug and alcohol policy and would like to speak to one of our expert team, please call +44 (0)1223 941941 or drop us an email.