Most companies already have workplace drug policies in place, and that is a good thing. However, when you look at many of these drug policies in the workplace, most of its stipulations are mostly focused on threats of penalties, suspensions, and in many cases, dismissal of violators from their jobs. Over the years, thousands of workers all over the world have been terminated for breaching their workplace drug policies.
The problem with punitive workplace drug policies
To be fair, penalising, suspending or sacking an employee for violating a workplace drug policy is the prerogative of every employer, particularly when the employer has made every single stipulation in the policy clear to everyone in the workplace. The employer has made a serious effort towards drug safety policy development and the education of everyone about it through seminars, training, briefings, and employee handbooks, and if anyone violates them despite awareness of the policy, then any kind of punishment meted them will be rightfully deserved.
The problem with punitive workplace drug policies, however, is that they often forget employees also need help in the first place. While it’s true that there are some workplace drug policies that make sure any employee found out to have a drug problem are given appropriate assistance in the form of access to professional help or treatment, most workplace drug policies tend to be more concerned about how to punish violators than to help them.
Taking control of drug policies in the workplace
This is the time employers have to take control of their drug policies in the workplace. A punitive workplace drug policy, while very effective in ensuring workplace health and safety, especially when the employee concerned works safety-sensitive jobs like driving a truck or operating heavy machinery, has the potential to ruin a person who needs help, sometimes for life.
Think of a punishment-focused workplace drug policy as akin to the War on Drugs that is being waged by governments for decades now. Hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people are dead and in prison, and governments are still nowhere near eradicating drug use and addiction from the face of the Earth. If only a fraction of the immense resources governments have spent to construct more and much bigger jails and form bigger police and military forces to go after drug traffickers and cartels and drug users were spent on programs that could have prevented people from becoming drug users from becoming full-blown drug addicts, the War on Drugs could have seen a much better success rate.
Drug addiction is a health issue
Drug addiction is a health issue, and employers should treat it as such. Just dismissing them outright, without even trying to provide them access to treatment and care, is simply uncaring. If employers really care about their employees, they need to protect their health — the ones with drug problems included — in any way they can through well-being programs and other efforts that will help them make a recovery.
We could only hope that employers take control of drug policies in the workplace and re-orient them towards the more noble goals of improving the health of employees, respecting their basic human rights and guaranteeing the overall well-being of everyone in the workplace.