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Drug Testing in the Workplace: The Key Issues For Employers and Employees

Drug Testing in the Workplace: The Key Issues For Employers and Employees

Research from four leading screening companies have shown that the number of UK employers’ drug testing their workers has increased significantly.

The four companies, Alere, Synergy Health, LGC Group and BioClinics, say they have seen rises in the number of annual tests carried out of between 40% and 470% over four years.

They believe that business leaders’ increased awareness of workplace drug use is a large factor behind the growth and say that companies’ adoption of drugs-testing policies is “mainly due to insurance purposes”.

Employee drug testing and the law

Under the current law, workers cannot be made to take a drugs test, but if they refuse when the employer has good grounds for testing, they may face disciplinary action. Businesses must also have the consent of employees whom they wish to screen for drugs, and usually this will be in the contract or staff handbook.

Tests are usually performed at random, but can be targeted towards certain workers if their employers become suspicious of drug use.

Discussing the rises, Lianne Gray, LGC Group’s strategic account manager for occupational drug testing, said employees in safety-critical roles – such as operating heavy machinery or driving – and government agencies were most likely to be screened.

However, she said there was a growing trend for drug testing to be conducted in “more normalised industries”, including retail and health companies, as businesses look to “safeguard not only the business, but also the reputation in the field they work in”.

Ms Gray also revealed that there had been changes in the types of drugs for which businesses wished to screen. “Traditionally we see requests for amphetamines, cocaine, cannabis, opiates. Now we’re seeing more requests for things like ketamine, steroids, and also for novel psychoactive substances – or legal highs as they’re otherwise known,” she explained.

Drug testing and your personal privacy

Civil liberty groups have expressed concerns about the rise in workplace testing. They argue that the practice is an invasion of people’s privacy outside of safety critical roles.

A spokesperson for Release, the drugs advice charity, says that her organisation is now frequently taking calls from people who had falsely tested positive for drugs and adds that although drug tests may indicate what substances are in the system, they do not indicate if a worker’s performance is likely to be affected.

“Employers should not be able to interfere with what their employees do in their private life when this has no bearing on their ability to their job,” Relate comments.

Employment law policies and drug testing: How employers can implement these effectively for their business

At IBB Solicitors, we take a proactive approach to workplace issues, helping employers find the best possible outcome for their employment issues. We can also help advise on policy reviews.

Erica Humphrey, a solicitor in IBB’s employee team commented: “Work place drug testing is a useful tool for employers. However ensuring that correct policies and procedures are in place is critical to ensure this works effectively for your business”.

Our specialist employment lawyers place heavy emphasis on continuing personal training and development, to ensure that they always present you with the most up-to-date legal and practical advice available. Our expertise and experience has made us one of the most trusted and highly regarded employment law teams in the region. Our service ensures that you are fully aware of changes to employment law.

For advice on employment contracts and policies contact our employment team on 01895 207892. Alternatively email your details to employment@ibblaw.co.uk