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Pre-Employment Drug Tests: How They Impact Hiring Decisions

A urine drug test is the most common pre-employment screening. However, saliva, hair, and blood samples may also be used. Employers often conduct pre-employment drug tests because drugs and alcohol can interfere with job performance and even put lives at risk.

Why Employers Conduct Drug Tests

Companies administer drug tests to present and potential workers because taking illicit or legal prescription medications impacts work performance and can endanger other people’s lives. It’s true for positions categorized as safety-sensitive, where impairment while working may cause death. Using drugs, even for a single usage, interferes with concentration and judgment. It also can decrease productivity and lead to mistakes that could cost the company money or even a life. However, research does not support the claim that excluding applicants who fail pre-employment drug tests improves hiring decisions. Applicants who know they will be tested avoid drugs before testing and choose not to apply for jobs requiring drug tests. They also tend to perform worse during interviews and in the job itself, as evidenced by two studies of postal workers conducted in the 1980s.

Urine Tests

Urine tests are the most prevalent type of pre-employment drug tests. They can identify various compounds, including alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, fentanyl, amphetamines, methamphetamine, and other illegal drugs. The test can also see certain prescription drugs and some legal ones. Particularly in jobs where safety is a concern and drug use by an employee could endanger the lives of others, many firms conduct random urine tests on their current workforce. It can help lower workers’ compensation claims, reduce employee absenteeism and turnover, and increase productivity.

Research on pre-employment drug testing programs suggests they may be ineffective selection devices. One study, for example, tested 4,964 U.S. Postal Service job applicants as part of their pre-employment medical examinations. The test results were kept confidential and had no bearing on hiring decisions, but outcome measures were later obtained from personnel records.

This study found that the drug-positive group was likelier to miss work, be late, frequently change jobs, and file workers’ comp claims than the drug-negative group. It also found that these groups had higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse problems in the workplace.

Hair Tests

Drug use can make for a dangerous workplace. It interferes with an employee’s judgment and may even put the lives of others at risk. As a result, employers often conduct drug tests on current and prospective employees to ensure a safe work environment. While urine testing is common for workplace drug tests, hair and saliva (oral fluid) tests are also becoming more prevalent. These tests are often used for returning-to-duty testing but can also be a valuable tool for pre-employment screening. The Department of Health and Human Services has begun introducing guidelines for including hair testing in federally regulated programs, which may signal that it is on its way to becoming a mainstream method for workplace drug screening. A hair strand drug test can detect the presence of illicit drugs and some misused prescription medications within a window of usage up to 90 days in the past. A company can include this requirement in a job posting or conditional offer of employment, and the results will be shared with candidates after they complete their test.

Blood Tests

For many employers, a blood drug test is a common screening method. This type of test provides instant information about the presence of alcohol, cocaine, opiates (including heroin), methamphetamines, and other drugs or their metabolites in the body. Blood tests provide a more accurate and complete picture of an individual’s past drug use than urine or saliva tests. Still, they are typically more expensive and invasive than other testing methods. Since applicants and employees know they will be subject to a blood drug test, they are incentivized to avoid taking drugs in the days leading up to the screening. It reduces the likelihood of a positive result and makes it more likely that an employer will decline the applicant or employee. Employers that perform pre-employment and routine drug tests can improve company turnover, in-office theft, and accidents while decreasing absenteeism. It can also help to protect workplace safety and boost productivity. To learn more about the benefits of a drug screening program and what types of tests are available, contact us today.

Saliva Tests

A saliva test is a non-invasive way for employers to test for drug usage in applicants. Samples can reveal use from the last few hours to a few days, depending on the type of drug and testing method used. It’s popular because it provides results quickly and is easier than collecting a blood sample. A positive result on a pre-employment drug screen can make it difficult for a candidate to land the job, particularly in positions where the misuse of drugs and alcohol can put others at risk. Drinking or using drugs while at work increases the likelihood that an employee may miss work, arrive late, become distracted, and have an accident that could endanger them or others. Many companies are willing to offer their candidates a job if they agree to undergo routine and random drug tests as part of their employment agreement. Those who don’t agree can have their offers rescinded, as is common practice. Employers can also offer workers’ comp premium discounts if they randomize drug testing.

Read More: Vintage Culture

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