In the globalised corporate culture of today, recruiting new talent across the far reaches of the globe is hard enough, but screening these new-hires and judging their compatibility with the said organization is one step ahead. With this, comes an increased chance of corporate risks and fraud.
The United Nations Drug Report in 2011 pronounces India as the biggest consumer of heroin. Cocaine is another favourite amongst individuals in the age group of 25-34 years. Worldwide, marijuana is the most commonly used and abused by employees, followed by cocaine, and the prescription drug use is climbing up the charts too. In India alone, about 3 million people are dependent on drugs (0.3% of the population). With these statements, it is evident that an employer today cannot avoid hiring drug users, however accidentally.
What if we told you it can be easily avoided? Avoided by one simple process – Pre or Post Employment Drug Screening.
Empowered by hiring pressures from the overseas, India is on its way to become the worldwide hub of drug testing, and the testing awareness is steadily on the rise. As this goes uphill, more and more employers are screening job applicants and existing employees for substance abuse, yet it is still a novel concept for the industry. New and improved threshold of laws and policies are attempting to balance employee privacy and an employer’s right to maintain a drug-free workplace.
An employee addicted to Class-A drugs or even a “transitional drug” such as marijuana would show an innate lack of productivity and focus. He/she would be disoriented and dazed. It leads to an unusual level of absenteeism, injuries, fatalities, theft and low employee morale and to an increase in the liabilities and compensation costs for the employer company.
In addition, drug abuse can cause problems at work including:
Withdrawal or substance effects influencing job performance
Fixation on obtaining and using the drug which interferes with concentration at work
Possibilities of drug pedalling in the workplace
Psychological implications on the user and co-workers
Unpredictability that comes with drug use that may be groundwork for violence in or outside the work premises
How to Spot the Not?
Employee drug screening may be done as a precautionary measure or on an individual based on employer suspicion. There are several tell-tale signs of drug abuse. Here’s how you spot a user:
- Dip in Job Performance and Productivity
- Inconsistent work quality
- Poor concentration and lack of focus
- Erratic work patterns
- Increased absenteeism or on the job “presenteeism”
- Carelssness, mistakes or errors in judgment
- Self-destructive tendencies
- Indifference towards safety of self and others
- Unusual or out-of-character workplace behaviour
- Bitterness and Isolation
- Disregard to personal appearance and hygiene
It is not compulsory for an employer to conduct employee drug testing. In order to test job applicants/employees for substance abuse, the concerned individual must be handed an offer letter first. Where permitted by law, candidates may be screened. Employees may be tested prior to offering a higher position, when a workplace accident occurs, and at any time when substance use is deterrent in the continuing condition of employment.
Ensure that the individual is not taking any prescribed medications and if he does, it should be carefully recorded. The candidate must be informed prior to a possible appointment that drug screening is a standard part of the hiring process.
It is highly emphasized that employers consult their respective legal aid to check into the local, state and national laws and policies on drug screening of employees. As mentioned before, screening for substance abuse in potential or existing employees is a young concept.
Drug screening may be done on the employees for varied reasons. These are:
Pre-Employment Drug Testing. All candidates must clear drug screening in order to be eligible for the position in concern.
Random Drug Testing. At any given point in time, a drug screen may be conducted randomly.
For Cause Drug Tests. Under the grounds of suspicious behaviour associated with drug use, the employers may order a drug test.
Post Accident Drug Test. If any on-site accident or mishap takes place, employers may request a drug screen.
So what happens if the candidate tests positive for substance abuse?
In India, the Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, says that drug (236 substances banned under NDPS) sale, possession and consumption of any amount are criminal offences. The punishment under this Act varies according to the amount of the contravention- <1kg means an imprisonment of upto 6 months or a fine of INR 10,000 or both; more than 1kg but less than commercial quantity spells an imprisonment of upto 1 year and/or a fine of INR 1lac. If the contravention is found to be in a commercial quantity, the candidate would face 1-2 years of imprisonment & a fine of INR 1-2lacs.
Section 71 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (as amended) provides as under:
- “Power of Government to establish centres for identification, treatment, etc., of addicts and for supply of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances
- The Government may, in its discretion, establish as many centres as it thinks fit for identification, treatment, education, after-care, rehabilitation, social re-integration of addicts
- The Government may make rules consistent with this Act providing for the establishment, appointment, maintenance, management and superintendence of the centres referred to in sub-section (1) and for the appointment, training, powers, duties and persons employed in such centres
Usually, no criminal charges are pressed on first-off offenders and so, they can’t be punished by law. However, they must volunteer for and complete a rehabilitation programme at a local government centre. If they leave it incomplete, they may face conviction accordingly. After medical satisfaction of sobriety, immunity is granted.
A successful and drug-free workplace policy can only be made if it is in strict compliance with the local laws and is accompanied by a carefully written set of rules and guidelines, which are easily to understand and execute. A policy like this would be immensely beneficial to all employees and employers alike, as it promotes a healthy, drug-free, staunchly professional image of the organisation. Moreover, it helps combat and eventually avoid the huge time and productivity loss encumbered by the risk. And prevention, as it has always been, is better than cure.