Since smaller companies are less likely to have a drug testing program in place, they are at greater risk of hiring and then suffering the consequences of drug and alcohol abusers than larger businesses, says Dee Mason, founder and administrator of the Business Against Substance Abuse Coalition in Columbus, Ohio.
The results of hiring a substance abuser are not always clearly visible. "Unless there's an accident of some sort," Mason says, "the employer often does not realize this culprit is syphoning off the bottom line."
Mason cites five areas where losses can occur:
1. Productivity. A substance abuser is 33 percent to 50 percent less productive than a nonabuser.
2. Absenteeism. "Substance abusers miss an average of three weeks more a year of work, and they are three times more likely to be tardy," Mason says.
3. Medical claims. Abusers claim 300 percent to 400 percent more in medical benefits.
4. Pilferage. Fifty percent to 80 percent of workplace theft has been traced to substance-abusing employees.
5. Accidents. Abusers are 3.6 times more likely to have an accident on the job, 5 times more likely off the job, and they file 5 times more workers' compensation claims than nonabusers.
In addition, Mason says, employers can be held liable in court for the behavior of employees both on and off the job, as long as they are operating within their job descriptions.
Establishing a substance-abuse prevention program reduces losses and liability. And, if you do federal contract work of $25,000 or more annually, or if you have received a federal grant, you are required by the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 to have a verifiable program in place.
An effective drug-free workplace program includes:
- a written policy that clearly articulates expectations, practices and consequences;
- employee education;
- supervisory training;
- drug testing; and
- an employee assistance plan.
Mason says small businesses have a number of resources to help with creating and implementing a cost-effective drug-free workplace program. She suggests checking with your local chamber of commerce or trade association for assistance. Or call Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America at (800) 542-2322 for referrals to resources in your area.
Jacquelyn Lynn is a business writer in Winter Park, Florida.