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Most organizations have substance misuse policies in place, but few measure effectiveness

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Substance misuse and abuse has been linked to on-the-job accidents and injuries, workplace violence and harassment as well as absenteeism and lost productivity.

While the majority of Canadian employers have a formal drug and alcohol policy in place, few evaluate their effectiveness, according to a new Conference Board of Canada report.

“Problematic substance use in the workplace is an emerging concern for Canadian employers in all industries, which is why many have implemented formal policies,” said Mary Lou McDonald, director, workplace health, wellness and safety research, the Conference Board of Canada. “However, to improve the health and well-being of their employees, Canadian organizations should measure the effectiveness of these policies. This would allow proper assessments of their actions in dealing with substance misuse issues.”

Among the 179 employers surveyed, 72 per cent reported having a formal drug and alcohol policy. However, only 32 per cent of employers surveyed reported that they evaluated the effectiveness of their drug and alcohol support programs and policies.

Measuring the effectiveness of substance misuse policies and programs has a positive impact on how employers perceived the supports offered to deal with drug and alcohol-related issues. Regular assessments of drug policies also allow employers to keep up with best practices and changes in legislation. Organizations that did conduct evaluations were much more likely than their counterparts to rate their programs as “very” or “extremely” effective. Metrics used to evaluate the effectiveness of drug and alcohol support programs and policies include employee assistance program/employee and family assistance program (EAP/EFAP) utilization rates, number of workplace injuries or accidents, absenteeism rates and referrals to treatment.

Most employers take actions that support, rather than discipline, employees requiring treatment for a substance use issue. In fact, only three per cent of the employers surveyed indicated they would suspend or dismiss an employee with a substance use issue. The top three drug and alcohol programs implemented by organizations were: EAP/EFAP, return-to-work support and wellness/health promotion/prevention programs, found Problematic Substance Use and the Canadian Workplace.

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