What to Do About Drug Testing During COVID-19: What Every Employer Should Know

October 12, 2020 - minute read

Businesses everywhere continue to work tirelessly to identify and resolve unprecedented obstacles related to COVID-19. Employers have been required to change established operating practices and continuously reevaluate how workforce management practices can be improved to better ensure worker safety.

One issue, pre-employment screening and employee drug testing, presents a unique challenge. Historically, national crises have led to increased substance abuse, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Therefore, the need to maintain alcohol and drug-related testing is more relevant than ever. However, many drug testing sites have also become COVID-19 test sites, creating an increased risk of COVID-19 exposure for you and your workforce.

Let’s discuss some of the concerns surrounding this issue, as well as some possible strategies for maintaining a safe and drug-free work environment for the remainder of the pandemic.

The Drawbacks of Drug Testing During COVID-19

Chances are, you’re considering altering your hiring and drug-testing policies in the hopes of not having to cut testing entirely. That said, there are serious risks involved any way you look at it. Reducing or refraining from testing could result in intoxicated employees at job sites, but sending employees to drug testing sites may result in a greater risk of COVID-19 exposure, positive cases, and—worse case—facility shut-downs.

Moreover, many employers are facing talent shortages and similar interferences, making drug-testing logistics even more complicated. Labor shortages in certain industries (related to COVID-related illnesses, unemployment subsidies, childcare issues, etc.), have led some employers to postpone drug testing in the hopes of making it easier to find and keep qualified applicants. This also lowers the risk of bringing on exposed hires, but risks other OSHA concerns nonetheless.

So, what are you to do? In order to prioritize safety, while upholding operational ease during these unprecedented times, let’s discuss some of your available options.

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Solutions/Alternatives for Drug and Alcohol Testing During COVID-19

Here are some of the options available to employers for managing drug testing during COVID-19:

  1. Change your policy to forego testing: Switching from strict drug-screens to monitoring for on-the-job intoxication is one option for your business. Until drug testing is fully safe again, this may be the simplest solution for prioritizing protection against COVID-19. That said, you may still be required to test depending on your industry or state laws (ex. jobs that are subject to the requirements of the U.S. Department of Transportation . Reasonable suspicion guidelines also comes with a lot of rules, so be thorough regarding your unique compliance requirements and HR approach.
  2. Postpone testing: Another option is to tell your prospective employees that preemployment screenings will be postponed until it is safe to do so. If this is the case, you need to make sure they understand that they will be tested eventually. Moreover, iterate that if they or any other employee is found to be intoxicated on-the-clock, some variation of the drug-testing policy will still be followed. *Note: California and other states have strict laws governing how drug tests are to be performed, so make sure to check with an HR advisor or legal counsel before implementing newly customized policies.
  3. Use mobile-testing services: Depending on your location, you may be able to continue testing using mobile-testing facilities as an alternative to sending employees to other on-site testing locations. While certain labs are taking extreme care to keep COVID-19 and alcohol/drug testing separate, this is a preferable option for putting employees at ease while lowering risks on both fronts.

Training Your Managers for Reasonable Suspicion

Regardless of how you adapt your policies to address the risks facing your workforce, it’s important that you are compliant. For employers looking to forego testing, monitoring for on-the-job intoxication means training your supervisors on the proper ways to establish that one of their employees is under the influence.

EPAY Systems is here to help train your workforce and aid in reasonable-suspicion-based testing. We even have technological solutions to help aid the process. EPAY Learning provides over 10,000 best-of-breed courses, as well as the ability to create and upload your own materials, on subjects like reasonable suspicion and COVID-19. Check our blog, “5 Ways to Use Your LMS to Keep your Workers Safe” for more information.

Looking for more insight into successful reasonable suspicion? Check out our free, prerecorded webinar on handling cases of reasonable suspicion!

Filed Under: COVID-19