Gaining Employee Consent for Drug Testing in the UK

Workplace drug testing is becoming more and more commonplace in the UK. In October 2014, the BBC reported that the amount of companies asking staff to take a drugs test had increased significantly over the last four years.

Drug testing by employers is normally carried out on a random basis. Sometimes it is also required prior to employment, on suspicion of drug use, or on cause, following an incident or accident.

Because the drug testing of employees and prospective employees is a relatively new concept for many UK companies, many firms are unsure where they stand when it comes to asking staff to take a drug test.

As the law stands now, employers in the UK need consent to undertake a drug test and and this will usually be will be in the employees’ contract or the staff handbook. This simple concept is complicated however by the fact that tribunals would normally expect employees to reasonably give their consent to undergo drug testing. In simple terms an employee must have good grounds to refuse a drug and alcohol test, be confident that the employer has requested the test irresponsibly or has been unfair.

Because most employees are normally expected to reasonably give consent for workplace drug testing, they should seek professional advice from their union or line manager before refusing to give a test sample. However, pre-consent is often implicit in many contracts of employment. i.e. the contract will include a clause agreement between the employee and employer agreeing drug and alcohol screening during the period of employment.

Workplace drug testing for employers

UK employers have a number of responsibilities:

  • To only drug test where it is appropriate.
  • Be fair in the implementation of the drug testing procedure.
  • Operate testing in a fully random fashion and not to single out particular employees for drug and alcohol testing unless this is justified by the nature of their jobs or their actions.

Workplace drug testing is far more common in safety critical employment roles, and testing frequencies may reasonably be far more frequent. There is no guidance in UK law regarding the frequency of random testing for specific employment roles.

Employees can not be forced or made to take a drug or alcohol test, but if they refuse when the employer has good grounds to request a test, and has acted fairly and responsibly, they the employer can take disciplinary action.

Employers have a legal responsibility to ensure a safe workplace. This includes ensuring that no employee is undertaking employment under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Workplace drug testing using a saliva drug screen

Most employers in the UK use a saliva or oral fluid drug test kit as a first line drug screening test with instant on-site results. This is considered the best first line drug test kit option as it is minimally non invasive, easy and safe to collect in front of the individual being tested, with observed sample collection. The Zoom Testing saliva drug test is a seven panel drug test that is considered to be an ideal combination drug test for employers in the UK.

For more information on various types of drug and alcohol tests for workplace drug testing please contact us. We supply reliable drug test and alcohol screening kits that are accurate for workplace screening, visit

Photo: Image courtesy of ukhomeoffice on Flickr