Last updated: December 4, 2023
Some news outlets are reporting that inflation is slowing down. However, some business owners across the country may beg to differ. If you’re one of them—and you’re to the point of cutting costs to keep your business afloat—employee drug testing shouldn’t make the list. In fact, it may help you lower your overall costs.
Once everyone absorbed the shock of what was happening in the world when the lockdowns started, human resources (HR) departments scrambled to pull things together by fine-tuning their processes to accommodate the new working arrangements. The remote workforce strengthened substantially because it proved its worth as businesses not only survived but thrived.
It didn’t take long for the economy to begin suffering after the onset of the pandemic in 2020 though. Then, once the supply chain crisis took full effect, the situation went from bad to worse. With costs rising on everything from office products to utility bills, some business owners decided to abandon their brick-and-mortar establishments entirely. They quickly determined that rather than incurring the rising costs in rent and other overhead expenses, they wouldn’t revert back to the old way of doing things.
Other companies have maintained their physical addresses. For instance, companies that manufacture products that have been dealing with the necessity to lay off workers or can’t keep positions filled—both of which negatively affect productivity. Some of them, especially small business owners, are struggling to survive.
Drugs play a part here
In addition to rising costs, drug abuse continues to take a toll on the American workforce as well. Some people use drugs or alcohol to deal with stressful situations. Some people who worked for companies that were locked down began using drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism. The evidence supporting that fact shows in the alarming number of deaths due to overdose recorded in 2020. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 91,799 drug overdose deaths recorded that year. Opioids were listed as contributing factors in 68,630 of them. That equates to nearly 75%.
That number has continued to grow since. That’s a problem for business owners. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) has reported that of the 14.8 million Americans who abuse drugs, 70% of them are employed. Moreover, a report from the National Drug-Free Workplace Alliance (NDWA) stated that 40% of industrial fatalities in this country are caused by someone who is high. Another sobering statistic comes from the U.S. Department of Justice—drug abusers are responsible for 40% of employee theft.
Drug testing benefits your bottom dollar
Some employers are mandated to drug test their employees—think Department of Transportation (DOT) or people who are employed by the federal government. Others choose to do so of their own accord. Granted, some states offer employers discounted rates for worker’s compensation insurance if an employer participates in a drug-free workplace program. Not all states make that available, however. Even so, some employers choose to operate a drug-free workplace because they feel it’s the right thing to do.
We’d like to go over the benefits of employee drug testing and link them with their ability to save your company money.
It’s a matter of safety
We already stated that roughly 40% of work-related fatalities are caused by someone who is abusing drugs on the job. Does it surprise you, then, to learn that 50% of any type of workplace accidents are linked to drug abuse? Probably not. Employers who decide to operate a drug-free workplace do so for safety’s sake. They value their employees and want to provide them with a safe work environment.
Drug testing helps them do that. Employers report fewer accidents after beginning a drug-free program. Fewer accidents mean fewer worker’s comp claims. If we’re directly linking this fact to drug testing in particular, most insurance companies require a blood test for post-accident testing. It’s mainly reserved for this specific use due to the expense.
There’s a bigger picture to look at though. When employees know you’re doing everything possible to create a safe space for them to work in, they’ll be more satisfied with their jobs. That means they’re likely to stick around for the long term. As an employer, you can see how that relates to efficiency which, in turn, relates to cost… or the lack thereof.
Increase in productivity and performance
Employee satisfaction links directly to productivity and performance levels. We mentioned that drug testing increases your employees’ level of satisfaction. They’ll be happier at work and that spills over into your company culture. Positive work culture is proven to equate to increased productivity. Job performance is going to improve as well. That’s because when your employees are happy and satisfied, they are going to go the extra mile for you.
All day, every day.
Tardiness and absentees won’t be taking such a toll
Statistics show that employees who use drugs are two to five times more likely to be late for work. And, as they say, it all adds up. In this case, “it” is referring to your overall operating cost. Cutting time out of their day cuts your profit margin too.
Drug users are absent more often than their sober co-workers as well—nearly two weeks more as a matter of fact.
There’s a bright side here though, employees who have successfully completed recovery programs only take off about ten days a year. That’s the lowest rate of absenteeism represented by any people group in the workforce.
Less employee turnover
If you’re experiencing a higher turnover rate than normal, you understand how expensive it gets to train someone only to turn around and re-train someone for the same position a short time later.
Not all employees leave their jobs due to drug abuse, however, it’s a known fact that someone who abuses drugs is likely to quit or get fired from their position within a year of their employment. Compared to 22% of employed workers who report having had more than one employer in a given year, a whopping 40% of people suffering from a substance abuse disorder are likely to report having more than one employer during a calendar year.
It’s estimated that recruiting and training replacement workers costs employers an average of 1/3 of the worker’s annual salary. If you figure in additional costs to the employer, some say that expense rises to 50% of the salary paid for the position.
The actual dollar amount is dependent on the position, of course. It’s estimated that higher-paying positions, such as executives, management, or those working in the world of finance, can cost employers as much as $14,000 per year due to untreated substance abuse disorders. This estimation stems from the likelihood of these professionals quitting their jobs within one year of being hired.
Fines are no fun
If you are an employer who is mandated by the federal government to drug test your employees under certain circumstances, failing to do so will bring your company out of compliance. Should an auditor for the government show up and demand to spot-check your records, you will be facing penalties and fines for each non-compliance found.
Your drug testing policies must be up to date and documented in writing. Moreover, every safety-sensitive worker in your employ must be made aware of them. Fines vary on a case-by-case basis but rest assured that none of them are cheap. The fines are calculated using a specific set of guidelines and inspectors base their final decision on the following criteria:
- Was the issue one the violator was likely aware of?
- How serious is the violation?
- The violator’s ability to pay.
Many safety-sensitive employers hire a third party to handle their DOT program, but it’s important to note that if they are found to be out of compliance, it is the employer who is held responsible.
They may not have the drug problem
Employees who have family members suffering from drug or alcohol addiction are adversely affected at work as well. Job performance suffers when distracted by the problems occurring in the home. Nights of little sleep due to fighting with or worrying about a loved one affect job performance. Not to mention worrying over financial problems, possible legal consequences, and missed work due to caregiving all take a toll.
If an employee shows signs of exhaustion, stress, or the inability to concentrate on their work it could be a sign of possible drug use. It could also be a sign of someone who is watching a loved one hooked on drugs or alcohol destroy themselves. Taking time to discover if it’s either one could be the lifeline needed, thrown just in the nick of time. Let’s don’t let anyone go down for the count. If you suspect an employee is struggling in some way, reach out to them. Just knowing someone cares is enough to keep the glow of hope alive—and it’s more than likely desperately needed.
We won’t give up the fight
Drug testing goes a long way toward keeping your operating costs as low as possible. Drug-free companies actually deter drug users from ever applying for a job there in the first place. Moreover, they help you weed out employees who abuse drugs. Should an employee test positive for drug use, show compassion when you break the news.
Nobody wakes up one day and declares they want to become a drug addict. What often begins as casual use—deemed more normal than ever in today’s “live and let live” culture—becomes a desperate way of life where all that really matters is from where the next fix comes. Being fired from your job because you tested positive for drugs is a pretty big wake-up call. Showing your employee that you genuinely care about them could be the catalyst that gives them the courage to seek help.
We will continue to hope that’s the way things play out every time.