How can you, as a human resource professional, help your organization prepare for and protect itself from the effects of opioid use disorders in the workplace?

One of the worst things an employer can do is assume it won’t happen to them. Drug dependence is equal opportunity whether you work for a school, construction company, manufacturer or law office.

In fact, three out of four adults ages 18 to 64 with substance misuse disorders are active in the workforce (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). And despite the increasing incidence of opioid use while on the job, 76 percent of employers and 64 percent of HR professionals aren’t trained on how to deal with opioid use at work, according to a 2018 survey by The Hartford, a property and casualty insurer.

The same survey also found that nearly seven in every 10 companies are impacted by opioid use today or will be in the future. And 65 percent of HR professionals say opioid addiction is having a financial impact on their company today.

If you’re not already feeling the pain of lost employee productivity, absenteeism or high-risk claims as a result of opioid use at your organization, it’s likely you will. Here are three things HR pros should be acting on today:

Review your policies

Policies across the employee lifecycle – from hiring to termination – will have a great impact on the organization, employee safety, and the employee and his or her family members (who will most likely already be in crisis due to the drug disorder). Review your hiring policies around criminal background checks and update workplace safety policies to reflect the use of prescriptions on the job. Also, educate the human resources team on ADA accommodations and FMLA leaves, and consider paid parental leave programs to include those who adopt and foster.

Use your claims data

Many employers don’t know the extent to which their workers are abusing opioids, according to a 2018 survey by the Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. Health claims tracking is foundational to providing help to employees with substance dependencies and mitigating related high claims risks for the organization. Work with your carrier or broker to monitor both medical and pharmacy claims to identify individuals at risk.

Educate your organization

What are you doing to educate your employees on the signs of opioid use in the workplace? Do you know how to recognize an opioid overdose or know what to do if it happens? Make sure your employees are aware of policies in place to protect them. Inform your employees so they are more comfortable reporting suspected use or seeking help when needed.

For more information, attend the discussion, “Tackling Opioids in the Workplace: An Employers’ Survival Guide” on May 1, 2019. Read more and register here.

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