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April 29, 2014

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Employers failing to crack down on substance abuse in workplace despite zero tolerance

Around a third of UK employers admit they don’t have enough knowledge or training to identify if a worker is under the influence of recreational drugs, a new study from global health business Synergy Health has revealed.
 
Interestingly, the findings, published today, ahead of its London conference on 16 June, also show that employers are failing to spot substance abuse in the workplace even though 16 per cent suspect a staff member of having consumed drugs.
 
In a more damaging revelation, 87.5 per cent of those surveyed reported that they had a written drugs and alcohol policy in place while a huge 95 per cent claimed to have a zero tolerance approach to employees under the influence of drugs. Despite both, a high proportion of employers indicated that they would struggle to enforce their staff policy. 
 
The survey, which covers 200 medium-to-large-sized firms and represents more than 26,000 employees, is part of a new project undertaken by a partnership that also includes Alcohol Concern, the Global Drugs Survey, Royal Holloway University and others to look at drugs and their effects on the workplace.
 
One of the study’s most revealing facts was that more than three quarters of employers said that they would not carry out random drug testing (76 per cent) 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.
 
Dr Philip Kindred, technical services manager at Synergy Health, said: “While our study shows the majority of businesses 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 per cent of the workplace accidents that cost the UK economy over £4bn per annum.
 
Synergy Health has a regular testing facility for employers and conducts over 40,000 drugs screenings a year. It has uncovered an average of 10 per cent positive rate for drugs of abuse by donors. Of this, 7 per cent were positive for cannabis with 2.1 per cent for cocaine.
 
“We have seen over 50 per cent of employees at a single company return a positive reading during a 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,” added Dr Kindred.
 
“With new ‘designer drugs’ on the market such as Mephedrone and Benzo Fury starting to be seen within the workplace, employers can’t afford not to be a position to deal with the issues this presents.”

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