National Public Radio reports that 1/3 of Americans either know an opioid addicted person or someone who has actually overdosed on the drug. In fact, more than 100 people every day overdose on opioids. In the late 1990's pharmaceutical companies began aggressively marketing the drugs and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than 200,000 Americans have died from prescription opioid overdoses since then.
Opioids are a highly addictive drug manufactured to stop pain, are prescribed by a doctor and have helped ease the pain of many people. But this and other drugs in the same class (like heroin or fentanyl) are bought and sold illegally on the streets and their illegal use has reached epidemic
proportions in the US. Whole cities and communities have been decimated by this epidemic which in turn has also greatly impacted the US workforce and small business' profitability trying to cope with drug addicted workers and find prospective employees who are drug free.
A national survey by The Hartford Insurance Company found 1/2 of small businesses have been financially impacted by the opioid epidemic. That's 1 out of every 2 small businesses in the US are incurring an additional financial burden dealing with a drug addicted workforce. Since many small business's struggle to be profitable, this crisis is an issue the business community must educate themselves on and prepare a plan to deal with it.
Types of Expenses a Business Can Incur Addressing the Opioid Abuse Epidemic
- Workplace Injuries
- Employee Absenteeism
- Reduced Worker Productivity
- Increased Healthcare Costs
- Theft of Company Assets
What Steps Can an Employers Take to Protect Their Small Business from Opioid Abuse
Employers of all sizes are wise to get ahead of this curve and learn how to navigate employee drug misuse before the associated costs to the business effect profitability. Unfortunately, an employer has no control over an employees actions while off the clock, but they do have rights to disallow drug use on the job and it's effect on the employees work performance.
Institute a Drug Free Workplace Policy
Start by creating a Drug Free Workplace policy. But make sure to consult a labor attorney because organizations failing to comply with federal, state, and local requirements for a drug-free workplace can face severe penalties and may even face lawsuits filed by workers. Opioids can be prescribed legally and sometimes even due to work-related injuries, so employees may be taking them for legitimate reasons. (Illegal drug use, on the other hand, is not protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.)
Have all employees and new hires read, sign and date the policy. Make sure to have the employee reread and sign again at each employee review. That way they can't say they forgot about the Drug Use Policy.
Promptly deal with any violations of the policy, but make sure to institute procedures that are fair and equitable across all violations in order to stay in compliance with labor laws. Make sure to focus on the employees' work performance issues and the violation of the drug use policy. Avoid any discussions on 'personal' drug use problems and issues.
Provide Employee with Resources to Overcome Addiction
Give the employee a handout with local drug addiction counseling services in your area. Create your own list by using a simple Google Search of local services group meetings specializing in drug addiction.
Also consult your health insurance benefits advisor and familiarize yourself with the health insurance benefits available to your employees through the company health insurance plan.
Make sure to give this information to your employees at all regularly scheduled performance reviews in case they have a drug problem brewing that you, the employer, has not identified yet. A drug free work environment will reduce the costs of doing business and in turn increase profitability.
At Denver West Insurance Brokers, we work with many small business' across Colorado and the greater Denver area. We are a local insurance brokerage near Golden, Lakewood, Arvada, Wheat Ridge, Morrison, Evergreen and Littleton Colorado. Give us a call. We are happy to help with your small business insurance needs.