Friday, November 13, 2015

Hiring and Drug Screenings: What HR Needs to Know

Substance abuse by employees is a serious issue for many companies. Drug and alcohol abuse impact work productivity and also cause employees to be absent more often.Impairment on the job is a significant safety risk. To combat these problems, some workplaces implement drug-free policies and institute these policies with drug testing. HR departments can choose to include drug testing as part of their pre-employment screenings, and they can also enforce random drug tests for current employees. However, drug testing is controversial and can be costly.

How can HR departments determine whether drug testing is right for the company? It’s important to examine the pros and cons before deciding to use drug testing in the workplace or as part of a pre-employment screening process. Here are some of the factors you should consider.

Drug testing can be expensive

Before implementing a drug testing initiative, it’s important to think about how the costs will impact your company. The most common type of drug screening is urinalysis, and the reason it’s so common is because in addition to being a non-invasive method, it’s generally the least expensive. Paying for a lab to test the samples still must be factored into your budget. The cheapest option is a non-specific screening, which can show false positives. In order to obtain the most accurate results, a follow-up test should be done after a positive screen. Many organizations save costs by performing only the initial screening, but this can cause them to lose out on great applicants whose tests resulted in false positives.

Despite the cost of accurate drug testing, it is true that employees who abuse drugs can also cost the workplace in the long term if they are unable to perform on the job. Therefore, using drug testing as a part of your pre-employment screening process may be worth the expense in order to weed out applicants who will ultimately cost the company more in the long term.

Drug testing may invade privacy

Some individuals and organizations object to drug testing because they view it as an invasion of privacy which has resulted in many court proceedings. If you require drug testing as a pre-employment screening, applicants who object to the test can simply not apply. However, current employees may be offended by implementation of random drug testing and feel that they are not trusted, which can damage workplace morale. If employees did not initially agree to a drug test as a condition of their hiring, they may choose to contest it in court. Ultimately, you need to determine whether drug testing is worth the invasion of privacy--and the possible costs of legal action if employees raise issues on these grounds.

When risks are high, drug testing can be necessary

While costs and privacy concerns may be reasons not to implement drug testing, there are some instances where HR departments determine that the cons are outweighed by necessity. In workplaces where there is a high risk of injury, impairment may cause a much bigger problem than lost productivity and absenteeism. If employees are operating machinery or driving vehicles, it’s especially crucial to take measures to avoid accidents caused by drug use.

Ultimately, the choice to implement drug testing as a pre-employment screening or as a routine practice depends on the resources and needs of your organizations. No matter what, the goal of all pre-employment screenings should be to find the best people for your workforce. If your HR department determines that drug testing is the best way to ensure a productive, healthy, and safe workforce, then the pros may very well outweigh the cons.

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