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Substance Abuse in the Workplace

May 10 2014 - Nearly one third of UK employers (32%) admit to not having enough knowledge or training to identify workers under the influence of recreational drugs. This is despite 16% having suspected an employee of taking a substance.

These findings came from a survey of 200 medium-large businesses employing around 26,000 employees, conducted by RMG Research for global health business Synergy Health plc. About two-thirds (68%) of these firms were in London and South East England.

The survey found that 87.5% of respondents said that they had a written drugs and alcohol policy in place. Almost all (95%) said they had a zero tolerance approach to employees under the influence of drugs. But a large proportion indicated that they would find it a struggle to enforce their policies. Over three quarters (76%) said they did not carry out random drug testing.

According to Dr Philip Kindred, Technical Services Manager for Synergy Health,:

"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."

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has found that drugs and alcohol are a contributory factor in over a quarter (26%) of the workplace accidents that cost the British economy more than £4 billion each year.

Dr Philip 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 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."

Author of the annual Global Drugs Survey, Dr Adam Winstock, emphasised the need for employers to be able to recognise symptoms and work to support their own policies by actively promoting a workplace that is safe from abusers of drugs and alcohol:

"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 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."

Synergy Health is a major povider of outsourced healthcare services with offices across the UK. Synergy Laboratory Services is based in Abergavenny, South Wales, and provides accredited Toxicology and General Pathology services to many high profile clients across a wide variety of industry sectors. Conducting over 40,000 drugs screenings a year, Synergy Health uncovers an average of 10% positive rate for drugs of abuse from donors. 7% were found to be positive for cannabis and 2.1% positive for Cocaine.



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