Your drug testing program helps you maintain a drug-free workplace and reduce accidents and injuries. But like other aspects of your background screening program, you need to periodically review the effectiveness of your program and take advantage of opportunities to make improvements.

Conducting an audit of your drug testing policy and program can help you assess its effectiveness in meeting your organizational screening goals. By regularly examining the key components of your policy and its related workflows, you can identify and fix any inconsistencies, outdated practices, and compliance gaps.

The Importance of Auditing Your Drug Testing Policy

Drug screening has been an important element of employment screening for a long time, with many organizations using it broadly at the pre-hire and post-hire stage. According to the 2020 PBSA employer survey, 44 percent of organizations conduct drug screening for all job candidates, and another 23 percent conduct it for some subset of candidates. Drug testing is especially common in highly regulated industries such as healthcare, financial services, and manufacturing. In some cases, testing extends to employees.

Auditing your drug testing policy provides an opportunity to review your program and keep it aligned with any internal changes or new laws affecting drug testing. By auditing your policy and program, you can realize the following benefits:

  • Stay in compliance with new and existing regulations, for example, new marijuana legalization in several states
  • Identify any areas where your testings practices have fallen out of step with internal policy

4 Steps to a Successful Audit Process

Auditing your drug testing policy doesn’t have to require an extensive outlay of time or money. In fact, your background screening partner should conduct periodic reviews of your program at no extra cost to you. 

Ideally, you should audit your policies quarterly or whenever you have the following occurrences in your organization:

  • A change in your overall hiring objectives and practices, including recruiting for new job categories
  • A merger or acquisition, because the entities may have conflicting drug testing policies
  • Following reports of workplace drug abuse
  • Hiring activity in states with new drug laws (for example, Oregon just decriminalized a broad range of illegal street drugs)

Take the following steps to complete an effective audit of your drug screening policy: 

1. Confirm the necessary elements of your policy.

Your drug testing policy should provide relevant information to help employees understand why and how drug testing is performed in your organization. If your policy is missing critical information or the policy isn’t well-communicated to employees, there’s a greater chance for misunderstanding or disputes down the road. 

Having a comprehensive policy also guides HR practices and helps you avoid errors and missed steps. Your drug testing policy should include the following elements:

  • Testing goals: What your organization hopes to accomplish with drug testing, for example, to create a drug-free workplace or to support employee health and safety (for example, with COVID-19 testing)
  • When testing will occur: When employees will be tested, for example, pre-hire, on a random basis, upon suspicion, or after returning from an extended absence
  • Included substances: Which substances you will test for, whether it be illegal substances such as opioids and amphetamines, or substances that are legal but banned in the workplace, such as marijuana or alcohol
  • Testing methods and procedures: How employees will be tested, for example, with urine, blood, and so forth, and where testing will take place

2. Evaluate your policy and practices for consistency.

A policy is only as good as the degree to which you follow it. When you audit your drug testing policy for consistency, you can identify areas where the policy should be changed to match actual practice or vice versa. Performing a gap analysis at the beginning of the audit process is a great way to make sure the policy is aligned to existing practice, and drug testing activities are applied consistently. 

Quickly see if the states you’re hiring in have legalized marijuana and how it  could affect your background checks in this guide. >>

3. Review your policy for compliance with applicable laws

Compliance in drug testing requires understanding and abiding by state and federal laws, as well as those specific to your industry. Violation of these laws, even if unintentional, can expose your organization to fines for noncompliance and costly lawsuits. 

To maintain drug testing compliance, be sure to review your drug testing activities relative to the following regulations:

  • Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requirements for disclosure, authorization, and adverse action
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) rules for protecting private health information
  • State marijuana and drug testing laws 
  • Industry-specific regulations such as Department of Transportation requirements for drug testing commercial drivers

4. Identify opportunities to improve efficiency and turnaround times.

Improving drug testing efficiency helps you keep the screening process moving. Although drug testing requires a candidate or employee to make an appointment and visit an approved testing site, you can speed up the process with paperless drug screening. Paperless drug screening is enabled for mobile use and makes the process of sending candidates and employees for drug testing much more time-efficient. Each individual can complete disclosure and authorization forms online and easily find a testing site in their area.

An audit of your drug testing policy can help you identify other opportunities for improving efficiency. For example, integrating drug testing with other background screening services and your applicant tracking system (ATS) helps to cut down on double entries and limit the number of times you need to ask employees for name, address, and contact information.

How Your Background Screening Provider Can Help

You can make the most of an audit of your drug testing policy when you have the support of an experienced background screening provider. A provider who acts as a partner uses industry experience and knowledge of best practices to help you successfully audit your drug testing policy for compliance, efficiency, and consistency. 

A reputable and experienced background screening provider also offers the following drug screening products and services:

  • Tools for building an efficient drug screening process in alignment with your policy and screening goals
  • Best practices and guidance on drug screening laws affecting your industry and organization
  • Updates about marijuana legalization affecting the design of your screening policies and activities
  • Technology to help you deliver a positive candidate experience and make the drug screening more efficient 

Periodically auditing your drug testing policy helps you stay in compliance and provide candidates and employees with a positive screening experience. When you have a great partner to guide you, you can navigate the legal requirements associated with drug screening and improve your program's overall effectiveness. 

For more great resources to improve the compliance and effectiveness of your screening activities, check out our comprehensive "Ban the Box" Legislation Guide.

How can marijuana legalization affect your background screening process? [View the Guide]