Things You Need To Know for Employee Drug Testing

Updated on January 12, 2022

Here is a list of criteria where businesses usually require employee drug testing for jobs, and employees’ focused attention is essential. 

Some jobs require screening employees or potential applicants for drug tests as a part of their recruitment process. Company policies and state laws may require this before offering the job to candidates or as a contingency for an offer. It may seem intimidating for the employees, however, as an employer, you can provide them with the assurance that there’s no accusation involved, and it is just a routine check to discourage drug use and maintain a safe and healthy workplace environment.

A variety of drug tests are available that are used by employers. Some of them include urine, blood, hair, saliva, sweat, and many more. Employers can choose whichever type of test they’d like when screening employees before or after they are appointed. Below are some reasons and the types of tests used in companies to determine that their employees do not abuse drugs and work under its influence.

Types of Drug Tests for Employees

  • Drug Tests before Employment

Many companies implement drug tests or certain medical tests, as part of their recruitment process, before offering the job to potential candidates. This is a way to let the newcomers know that the company and the workplace is a drug-free environment for the safety of all workers and their employers. 

  • Random Tests

It is usually wise to be consistent while testing for drugs among all the employees and not a few chosen ones. However, if the employer wants to choose randomly, they can use a computer software program to choose a person for the test. 

Another way is to randomly select employees based on your intuition or suspicion. Care should be taken to approach casually, for instance, selecting a few more employees for the test rather than the one you suspect. 

Despite suggesting employees take the test, the big question is: Can you refuse a random drug test at work? It is possible especially when the employees do not work in a safety-sensitive industry such as working for the government, hospitals or construction, and so on.

  • Post-Accident Tests

This is usually recommended after an accident that took place while working like construction, or an accident in factories, etc. However, you’ll have to assure the employee the drug test is not done to charge someone but to provide them with the worker’s compensation benefits. 

Prep Your Employees 

To reduce the tension and anxiety in the workplace about employee drug testing, you can prepare your workers by providing information about the tests and educate them on company drug policy. This is also applicable for newly selected candidates if the employer chooses to do so. You can also inform them of the methods used for collecting samples. Below are some typically used methods of testing for drugs:

Urine Samples

This is the most commonly used test when potential candidates and employees are screened for drugs and alcohol. Urinalysis provides information on drug residues even after the effects of drugs have worn out. For employment purposes, it screens for drugs which include cocaine, amphetamines, nicotine, marijuana, opiates, steroids, and so on.

Hair Drug Test

This test provides information on the past use of drugs by the employees, typically in a 90-day window. Though alcohol use cannot be detected via hair drug tests, drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, opiates, methamphetamine, and phencyclidine can be found.

To perform this test, 100 strands of hair from the scalp needs to be collected from the donor and detect the presence of drugs from the hair shaft. 

Mouth Swab Tests

One of the simplest and the least invasive types of test for a potential job applicant or an employee is a mouth swab drug test, also known as saliva or oral fluids test, which detects the use of drugs during the past few hours and up to one or two days. 

Blood Test

Blood drug tests are rarely used as they can only detect the number of chemicals or illegal drugs consumed at the time the blood is drawn. Therefore, if an employer suspects someone of being under the influence, a normal blood test will immediately show the amount ingested. 

Sweat Test

This is where a large patch, similar to a large adhesive bandage, is pasted on the skin to collect sweat. It is often worn for a long period to provide accurate results. A gas-permeable membrane helps to keep the patch away from dirt and other contaminants. 

Though this drug test is easy to administer and less invasive, it is hardly used in workplaces and often used to maintain compliance with probation or parole cases. 

Reasons for Employee Drug Testing 

Among the misconceptions about employers implementing drug testing, one of them includes a lack of trust in the workplace. It is done not only to protect the company but also for the protection of employees. 

Another reason why employee drug testing is done is when the company is run by the government or state. In this case, testing for drugs is compulsory. Even if your company is a private one, and no government activity is involved, you can have random testing done annually and add it to your company policies.

Identifying drug users not only helps the company and the employers but also the employees too. Employee drug testing improves a company’s image and reputation and commends the company for having a safe working environment. On the other hand, Employees that have been identified as a drug user can be rehabilitated by their employers to help them recover from the addiction, if the employer chooses to do so.

Employers owe their subordinates a safe working environment and so when one of them turns up under the influence of drugs, it degrades the work of other team members and reduces morale and productivity among workers. There have been several incidents where a drug user or an alcoholic creates a scene and disrupts the peace in the office which in turn poses a high risk not only to themselves but for their coworkers too. 

Who Pays for the Drug Tests?

For a pre-employment drug test of potential job applicants, they are often suggested having a test in any of their chosen clinics, or the employers themselves suggest a place for them. Usually, job applicants have to pay for the test. 

However, for current employees, the employers pay for the drug test taken, besides, the time spent on testing for drugs are also considered as working hours, therefore a paid time.

For those employees who have a positive drug result and would genuinely like to change, the employers may pay for the recovery at drug rehabilitation centers for their employees. 

Common Problems when Drug Testing 

Even though you have prepared yourself and your employees well for the drug test, the situation may still go wrong. Here are some problems that may appear during the ongoing drug testing program:

  • Does not provide the required amount of urine

If this becomes the case the collector should make the employee stay and drink water frequently to provide a sufficient sample to work with.

  • Substituted or Tampered sample

Some employees out of fear may substitute their samples with others who are free from drugs. Therefore, collectors must collect samples from each employee individually and minimize the chances of the samples being tampered with or substituted by any means. If such an incident occurs, the collector can ask the employee to provide a second sample. 

  • Simple Refusal

As mentioned above, it is within employees’ right to refuse to test for drugs. However, the consequences of that would lead to the termination of the job.

Employee Drug Testing program can help not only to keep the company in a positive light but can also help employees maintain focus and improve productivity without any obstacle. 

What employers can do is to prepare his/her subordinates and familiarize them with various methods and how the drug testing will be done. Employers should reassure the employees that no one is suspected, rather maintain formalities and provide a safe work environment for all. It can also give the message of their drug-free company policy that will be strictly maintained and all must participate whenever asked. 

Those who turn out to be drug users can be given the benefit of the doubt and employers can choose to help them by providing rehabilitation to overcome their addiction. 

However, there may be some who take prescription medicines that contain some drugs. If this is the case, then the employee simply has to show the prescription to the employer or the medical officer and he/she will have to provide a medical reason for it as well. 

All that is needed during employee drug testing, is reassurance and guidance from the employers to their subordinates not to feel ashamed, anxious or stressed.

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