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Is Workplace Drug Testing Really the Best Thing for Your Business?

REPOST ARTICLE SOURCE: 

http://www.thesba.com/2012/04/05/is-workplace-drug-testing-really-the-best-thing-for-your-business/

Personal accountability is especially important in a small business to meet deadlines, satisfy clients, control budgets, and produce positive results. With fewer employees to run day-to-day operations, small-business owners rely even more on individual contributions than do larger corporations.

A small-business owner has two choices to ensure his company employs personally accountable and law-abiding individuals: (1) a system based on trust, or (2) a system based on test results.

Surprisingly, however, a system based on trust yields higher productivity and employee morale than one based on testing. Take, for example, drug testing in the workplace.

More than half of employers in the United States (57 percent) still conduct drug tests on job candidates, and many employers (36 percent) continue to conduct periodic drug tests on current employees, according to 2011 research by the Society for Human Resource Management1.

Because drug testing costs as much as $50 per candidate, small-business owners (99 or fewer employees) are less likely to conduct drug tests (39 percent) compared with owners of businesses employing 2,500 or more employees (71 percent), according to the same research.

However, in a study of 63 high-tech firms in the computer-equipment and data-processing industry, drug testing was found to reduce rather than enhance productivity, according to a report by the ACLU2. Firms with pre-employment drug testing scored 16 percent lower on productivity measures than firms with no drug testing in the workplace at all, according to the ACLU report.

Here are three more reasons to reconsider drug testing in the workplace:

  • Drug testing is expensive. According to an ACLU study, the federal government spent $11.7 million to find 153 drug users among almost 29,000 employees tested in 1990 – a cost of $77,000 per positive test2.
  • Drug testing is not completely accurate, as it is not a pure science. There is a chance that an employee will receive a false positive. This unfairly destroys the rapport between an employee – falsely accused of using drugs – and an employer – forever biased by the inaccurate results.
  • Drug testing does not catch drug users. Drug testing, especially when conducted exclusively during the hiring stages, doesn’t guarantee that you’ll identify a drug user.

“The vast majority [of workers who use drugs] undergo examinations only when they apply for a job, and they can pass by abstaining from drugs for a reasonable period before the test – or by using a variety of masking agents or devices that make their urine seem clean,” Reynolds Holding wrote for Time3.

If you want to improve productivity and decrease absenteeism in your workplace, you have other methods available for encouraging personal accountability at your company, including:

  • Encourage participation in substance abuse programs. Medical insurance often covers counseling and substance abuse programs. If you suspect that an employee has a problem with drugs or alcohol, promote a substance abuse program at the office. Small businesses are more like families. As such, raising awareness for insurance-covered counseling kindly allows employees to address issues confidentially and quietly, and it shows that your company supports healthy recovery and doesn’t just issue reprimands.
  • Conduct comprehensive reference checks. Instead of testing candidates for drugs, try conducting more comprehensive reference checks on your employees. Ask for three professional and three personal references.
  • Prepare a list of questions in advance that ask previous employers and personal references to honestly evaluate a candidate’s sense of personal accountability. (Of course, check with a lawyer ahead of time to ensure that you’re not violating any workplace discrimination laws.) Reference checks done correctly will identify more areas for potential problems or conflict than will a drug test.
  • Hire outside consultants to improve workplace efficiency. If there is a decrease in productivity at your business, it may have nothing to do with your employees at all. Hire an outside consultant to analyze your operations and bookkeeping.
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