SHRM Poll: Drug Testing Applicants Favored by More than Half of Employers

By Bill Leonard Sep 16, 2011
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The practice of requiring job applicants to take a pre-employment drug test appears to be gaining acceptance from employers, according to a poll released Sept. 7, 2011, by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA).

Fifty-seven percent of the survey participants’ organizations require all job candidates to take a pre-employment drug test, while less than a third (29 percent) do not have a pre-employment drug-testing requirement. The remaining 14 percent of respondents test applicants for safety-sensitive positions and when required by state law.

Nearly 70 percent of the businesses that require testing for all job applicants reported that the policy has been in place for seven years or longer, and 12 percent reported that they have required the tests for five or six years.

“Among the organizations using these testing programs, the tendency is to continue the use of them over relatively long periods of time,” said Mark Schmit, director of research at SHRM. “In addition, organizations are reporting positive impacts related to drug and alcohol testing that supports the efficacy of these programs.”

The poll, which was commissioned by DATIA and conducted by SHRM, surveyed 1,058 randomly selected HR professionals and featured questions about employers’ drug-testing policies and practices. The survey revealed that large organizations tend to be more likely than others to include drug testing in their hiring processes. More than two-thirds (71 percent) of organizations with 2,500 or more employees require all job applicants to take a pre-employment drug test.

Less than 40 percent of businesses with fewer than 100 employees had a drug-testing policy for job candidates. This number increased for medium-sized businesses, with 56 percent of organizations with 100 to 499 employees reporting that they require pre-employment drug testing, followed by 62 percent of businesses with 500 to 2,499 employees. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of organizations with multinational operations reported that they use or apply many of the same drug-testing policies in their operations outside the United States.

Nine percent of respondents reported that prior to implementing a drug-testing policy, their organizations had a high rate of employee absenteeism (over 15 percent), compared with just 4 percent of respondents that reported a high rate of absenteeism after initiating a drug-testing policy—a decrease of approximately 50 percent.

Approximately one-fifth of the respondents (19 percent) reported that productivity improved after implementing a drug-testing policy. Six percent of the poll participants reported that their organizations had a high incidence rate (over 6 percent) of workers’ compensation claims after implementing an organizational drug-testing program, compared with 14 percent who reported similar incidence rates before initiating such a policy.

“The poll results show that drug testing may yield a high return on investment by creating a more stable, productive and safe workplace,” said Neil Fortner, chairman-elect for DATIA and the study’s principal investigator.

Bill Leonard is a senior writer for SHRM.

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