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Managing an employee substance abuse situation can prove difficult for employers

by on July 20, 2019 in Business, Lead Article, Lead story, News you can use, Nuggets

Managing an employee substance abuse situation can prove difficult for employers

With the rise of substance abuse worldwide, companies have to figure out how to manage this situation.

The first thing employers have to know is that they should never discipline one of their workers only because they suspect them of consuming substances. Taking measures based on suspicion is against the law and it can damage a company’s wellbeing.

But what should company managers do to deal with this situation when around 20 million people are dealing with substance abuse, and around 60% of them are full time employees? Substance addiction negatively influences their productivity, performance, and it generates high health care expenses for employers.

Not to say the safety and other risks they pose themselves to if they work under influences.

Why should companies care about employee substance abuse?

Studies show that yearly substance addiction costs companies billions of dollars in expenditures for productivity loses, disability payments, health care and workplace accidents.

And as stated before, around 60% of the adults who are dealing with this problem are full time workers, so employers have to find a solution to pay for the costs low productivity and increased health care bills generate.

Workforce substance abuse can have effects like:

  • Poor safety and similar risks for workers

  • Higher disability claims and employees’ compensation

  • A decline in performance and productivity

  • Absenteeism

  • Pricey health care expenses for illness and injuries

When people abuse substances they have difficulties in completing their tasks, work under influence in physically hazardous situations like operating machines, deal with financial issues, and refuse rehab and recovery.

What can an employer do?

It’s recommended for company managers to follow certain steps to determine if their suspicion is true, and to approach a worker who has this problem.

Step 1 – Check for signs of low performance

If you find yourself in the situation to monitor one of your employees to understand if they are abusing substances, you should pay attention to some signs.

  • Are they frequently late at work?

  • Do they take too many breaks?

  • Are they missing project deadlines?

  • Is their work quality affected?

  • Do they work less than before?

  • Is there an increase in their errors?

  • Do they waste the company’s resources?

  • Do they have an unsafe behaviour?

Step 2 – Document their working problems

It’s not enough for you and your employees to notice that one of your workers is showing substance abuse signs, you have to record it on paper to display their behaviour.

It’s important for the documents to show that you are concerned about your employees’ safety and health at the workplace.

You should write on paper when the incidents happened, who was involved and how they occurred. It’s important to have behavioural observations on the actions your employees do and not subjective comments. When you take an objective measure, your employees cannot dispute your decision.

Step 3- consult with specialists on how to address the situation

All companies need an employee substance abuse policy in place to deal with this situation. If you don’t have one you should get in touch with specialists and work to develop one. It’s important to educate your team on substance abuse and its effects, and to establish your organisation’s wellness program.

It’s important to create a working environment that reduces the stigma associated with substance abuse. You should collaborate with a rehab centre to offer your employees support if they are dealing with this problem. The specialists not only that will help them recover, but they will also offer recommendations on how to communicate with your employees in the given situation.

Step 4 – Approach the worker

Once you are sure your worker is dealing with a situation that affects their performance and productivity, you have to approach them and to find a solution. You should do it in a confidential way, in an environment they consider safe. It’s important no other parties be involved in the process because they may feel threatened and ashamed.

You should keep in mind that your role is not to diagnose your workers, you only have to inform them that you are concerned about their productivity and to offer them support. You should leave it up to experts to diagnose their problem and to design a treatment scheme. If your employees recognise they are abusing on substances you should recommend them drug and alcohol detox.

By collaborating with a centre to support your workers’ recovery, you show your team that you support them to regain their sobriety.

Step 5 – Recommend them to seek treatment

As stated before, all companies should have a substance addiction policy and collaborate with multiple centres specialised in rehabilitation.

You should offer your workers multiple options when they are facing this problem. It’s advisable to collaborate with multiple institutions because not all addictions are the same and not all treatments have the same approach.

You should recommend them some centres that can assist them during the recovery period and allow them to refuse and seek help on their own if they choose. It’s advisable to support your employees during the process to ensure that they smoothly return to work when they complete their treatment.

Step 6 – Monitor their work performance

It doesn’t matter if they accept to get treated in one of the centres you recommend or if they decline, you should monitor their work progress to make sure they respect your conditions.

This will help you understand if they handled their addiction problems and if the process was successful. It will also help you determine if you need to bring changes to your approach and adopt a new procedure. If your employees show improvements in their performance, you can consider the process successful.

The regulations state that all employers should ensure that they protect their employees’ safety and health at work. So, offering support to your team when they are struggling with this situation will reduce the errors, workplace accidents, improve workers morale, and cut down your expenses.



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