Survey shows bosses’ ignorance over influence of drugs at work

April 30, 2014
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Just under a third of employers admit they don’t have enough knowledge or training to identify if a worker is under the influence of recreational drugs – even though 16% have suspected a staff member of having taken a substance.

Despite 87.5% having a written drugs and alcohol policy in place, and a 95% claiming to have a zero tolerance approach to employees under the influence of drugs, a high proportion say they would struggle to enforce their policy.

The figures emerge from a survey of 200 medium-to-large sized firms carried out by Swindon-based global health business Synergy Health. The firms employ around 26,000 employees.

More than three quarters said they would not carry out random drug testing (76%) and around a third confessed that they did not have enough knowledge or training to tell whether an employee was under the influence of drugs.

The results have been released ahead of Synergy’s Drugs at Work conference at London’s Royal Holloway University in June, which is specifically designed to help companies deal with the problem of drugs and alcohol in the workplace more effectively.

Synergy Health technical services manager Dr Philip Kindred said: “Whilst our study shows the majority of business to have a stringent drug and alcohol policy in place, these policies are only as good as the people enforcing them.

“If managers don’t have the skills or the will to enforce these policies they might as well not exist and the potential risks to colleagues, customers and company reputation remain.

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development research shows that drugs and alcohol are a contributory factor in 26% of the workplace accidents that cost the UK economy over £4bn per annum.

As a regular testing facility for employers across the UK, conducting more than 40,000 drugs screenings a year, Synergy Health uncovers an average of 10% positive rate for drugs of abuse from donors. Of this 7% were positive for cannabis with 2.1% for cocaine.

Dr Kindred added: ‘We have seen over 50% of employees at a single company return a positive reading during testing in the past, so it’s clear there is a very significant problem out there and training should be in place for employers to identify such issues.

“With new ‘designer drugs’ on the market such as Mephedrone [also known as meow meow] and Benzo Fury starting to be seen within the workplace, employers can’t afford not to be in a position to deal with the issues this presents.”

Keynote speaker for the event and author of the annual Global Drugs Survey, Dr Adam Winstock, said employers should strive to be able to recognise the symptoms and work to support their own policies by actively promoting a workplace that is safe from those who abuse drugs and alcohol.

He said: “Employers that don’t acknowledge that these issues could be present anywhere within the modern workforce are missing a trick.

“If they don’t support their employees to engage in, and promote, an overall healthier and happier lifestyle, it could have not only hazardous effects on the business but also on its reputation and overall profit.

“It’s so important for us to continue to studies like this into attitudes to drug testing in workplaces across the world.

“Not only does it raise awareness of the issue and help employers come forward and seek advice on how to overcome the problem, it helps us to create well-crafted workplace policies that are an essential component in promoting a healthy, productive and happy workforce.”

The one-day conference takes place at Royal Holloway University in Surrey on June 16 with experts from organisations including Alcohol Concern, leading law firm Geldards as well as Dr Winstock.

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