In 2012 the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) published a report that highlighted the fact that a third of employers had revealed that drug and alcohol misuse had become a workplace problem


One way in which employers can combat this practice is to introduce a drug and alcohol testing policy into the workplace. If an employer is considering this option they have to take employee’s rights into consideration. Some organisations, including the offshore industry, the army and the police expect their prospective candidates to undergo testing before they are offered employment, and employees are aware that they will be tested for the duration of their employment with these types of organisations. Drug tests are becoming increasingly more widespread in all types of industries as any worker or manager who is trying to carry out their role under the influence of drink or drugs can be a danger to themselves, their colleagues and the general public.


Any company that is considering the introduction of drugs and alcohol testing should ensure that this policy is clearly stated in a contract of employment. Where possible, this decision should be discussed with union representatives and staff associations. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises that it is an employer’s responsibility to guarantee that the workplace is free of hazards and is a safe environment for all who work there. This recommendation also applies to workers who are unable to perform their roles adequately as a result of an altered mental state following illegal substance abuse or intoxication. Any worker who is drunk, hung over or drugged can be viewed as a danger. The introduction of a testing policy can cut down on absenteeism, which, in turn, will increase productivity


It is imperative that all employees are asked their permission before being requested to take a drug test. If they request it the employee can have a representative with them, this representative should be of the same sex as the employee. Most drug tests consist of either a hair or urine sample and are painless, but no one should feel that they have to take a test, though failure to do so may raise a red flag with an HR department. Human rights legislation does recognise that an employer has the right to ask for a test under their HSE obligations, and Article 8 of the Act (relevant to personal privacy) doesn’t apply between private companies and their employees. If a job offer is made and the company has a policy in place that sets out that applicants can only be offered a job that’s reliant on a negative test result, this should all be put into writing.


A good employer may offer help and counselling to any employee who fails a drug or alcohol test and give them the opportunity to seek guidance in order to deal with their problems. Obviously, if their performance is constantly impaired as a result of their actions, then the matter should be discussed and the employee may lose their job. As long as the company’s drug and alcohol policy is clearly stated any employee who abuses their position will be aware of the consequences.

Such firms as Concateno and Matrix Diagnostics provide all the equipment required to conduct drug tests in such circumstances.

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