Baguio City – Kashmir (not his real name) narrated that he started using the illegal substance in 2013. This is not the kind of revelation one would expect to hear from a professional with a high paying salary. Until his illicit drug use became a significant issue in the workplace and a growing concern for his employer and co-workers.

Kashmir sold his valuables, gadgets and spent his savings to finance his addiction which incurred the resentment of his family. His affair with the illegal drugs came to an end when the government started its anti-drug campaign through the “Oplan Tokhang” of the Philippine National Police (PNP) advising drug personalities to surrender.

It was a difficult process for Kashmir but he showed sincerity to reform by willingly undergoing rehabilitation. Currently, he is busy with his Sari Sari Store business in partnership with his younger sister. This undertaking is supported by the DOLE thru the provision of a working capital in the form of raw materials, equipment, tools and jigs and other support service.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) continuing anti-illegal drugs campaign for a drug-free Philippines will monitor business establishments, companies and workplaces for the strict compliance of Department Order 53-03 (DO 53-03) or the guidelines for implementation of a drug-free workplace policies and programs for the private sector.

DO 53-03 aims to assist employers and employees in the formulation of company policies and programs to achieve a drug-free workplace. The order was issued in compliance with Article 5 of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. The order applies to all establishments in the private sector, including their contractors and concessionaires.

The order requires random drug testing of employees in all establishments in the private sector, including their contractors and concessionaires. As required under the order,  employers must conduct a random drug test on their employees and officials unannounced, with each employee having an equal chance of being selected for test.

Under the DOLE Drug-Free Workplace Policy and Program, an employee who, for the first time, is found positive of drug use, shall be referred for treatment and/or rehabilitation in a DOH accredited center. After the rehabilitation, the company’s assessment team may recommend to the employer the resumption of the employee’s job if he/she poses no serious danger to his/her co-employees and/or the workplace.

Random drug test in the workplace is legal. The goal is to discourage drug use by not telling anyone in advance when and who will be tested. You don’t have to worry if you don’t use drugs. The Supreme Court has taken judicial notice of scientific findings that drug abuse can damage the mental faculties of the user. Employees who use dangerous drugs could have serious problems to their health, wellbeing and productivity.

The situations where employers can subject their employees to a mandatory drug test are “for cause testing” and “post-accident testing.” “For cause testing,” the company may ask an employee to submit to a drug test at any time it feels that the employee may be under the influence of drugs while for “Post-accident testing,” it is allowed where the situations are “near-miss” and “work-accident”circumstance.

“Near miss” refers to an incident arising from or in the course of work that could have led to injuries or fatalities of the workers and/or considerable damage to the employer had it not been curtailed. “Work-accident” circumstance refers to unplanned or unexpected occurrence, which may or may not result in personal injury, property damage, work stoppage or interference, or any combination thereof, which arises out of and in the course of employment.

All drug tests shall employ the screening and confirmatory tests. When the confirmatory test turns positive, the company’s assessment team shall evaluate the results and determine the level of care and administrative interventions that can be extended to the concerned employee. Should the employee turn out positive during drug test, it does not mean that the officer or employee shall be dismissed right away. An employee who, for the first time, found positive of drug use, shall be referred for treatment and/or rehabilitation in a Department of Health accredited center.

Following rehabilitation, the company’s assessment team may recommend to the employer the resumption of the employee’s job if he/she poses no serious danger to his/her co-employees and/or the workplace.

The employee shall pay for the all costs of treatment and rehabilitation. The period during which the employee is under treatment or rehabilitation shall be considered as authorized leaves. However, repeated drug use, even after being given the opportunity for treatment and rehabilitation, shall be dealt with the corresponding penalties under RA 9165 and is a ground for dismissal. Violations of DO 53-03 may be punished criminally under Article II of RA 9165 and its implementing rules and regulations, or administratively under Article 297 of the Labor Code.

For more information on workplace policies and programs on drug abuse prevention and control, visit www.dole.gov.ph. For facts about illegal drugs, prevention and control  visit www.pdea.gov.ph.

END/Patrick T Rillorta