09/08/2012Employee Issues, Safety

Despite warnings against the use of illegal substances, the number of people who report taking recreational drugs continues to grow.

This presents certain challenges to businesses, many of whom have staff members that may be under the influence of certain drugs while at their place of work.

According to the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction, the cost of alcohol and drug abuse to employers is on the rise.

$4.5 billion in lost productivity is recorded each year in Australia, with the majority of money spent on alcohol-related absenteeism, workplace injuries and in some cases fatalities.

However, the federal government says that the total economic impact of alcohol abuse on the workplace is closer to $15.3 billion.

A recent study in the UK show that drug and alcohol abuse is taking a toll on business, with researchers finding that the number of workers testing positive for drugs in routine tests rose by up to 50 per cent in the last five years.

Between 2007 and 2011, the numbers of workers who were found to have traces of alcohol, cannabis, opiates and cocaine in their system jumped from 2.26 to 3.23 per cent.

Speaking on the results, lead researcher Dr Claire George said the findings were conservative estimates and the risk of drug use to the workplace was much higher than it is currently perceived by employers.

To help better manage this workplace issue, Dr George suggested companies implement drug screening programs, saying: "The introduction of a balanced policy which includes an employee assistance programme providing support and education, as well as drug testing, has been proven to reduce the level of substance misuse in the workplace over time."

For assistance developing effective alcohol and drug screening programs, you may wish to speak to a HR professional such as ER Strategies.

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