Random Drug Testing in the Workplace

Random Drug Testing In the Workplace

When we use the term ‘drug testing’, we are referring to the detection of drugs, or more correctly ‘the metabolites of drugs’, by way of analysing biological material. With alcohol testing being the exception, drug testing looks for the remaining chemicals known as metabolites, because drugs in the body typically break down very quickly. While urine testing is the most common form of testing in the UK, hair, saliva, and sweat can also be tested.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the UK Government both agree that there are certain sectors where security and safety are of critical importance, like those who drive public transport, the financial sector, the armed forces, the police, the nuclear industry, and the prison service, and that in these sectors workplace drug testing should be carried out.

How to Introduce a Drug Testing Policy in Your Company

It’s important to note that, while drug testing is legal, it’s not enforced by law. This fact should be stated in the company handbook or employment contract of any company who implements a workplace drug testing policy. Thus, any employee asked to undergo a drugs test must give their consent, keeping in mind that in some companies and some occupations, failure to give consent could result in a job applicant being refused a position in the company.

Make Your Drug Testing Policy Clear, Simple, Fair, and Consistent

Most companies who implement a drug testing policy do so because drug testing forms part of their Occupational Health & Safety program. As mentioned above, this must be set out in your company handbook or employment contract. Your drug testing policy should clearly state your company’s views on alcohol and drugs, and specifically state your employees’ expected behaviour both in the workplace and out of the workplace while representing your company.

Your drug testing policy should answer the following questions –

  • Who will be conducting the tests, including how and where testing will be carried out;
  • What is your drug testing policy trying to achieve;
  • Should a drugs test prove to be positive, what disciplinary action will be enforced;
  • Should an employee fail a drugs test, what support will they be given, if any;
  • Who is your health and safety representative, and how can your employees find out more?

Your drug testing policy should clearly state that it’s unacceptable for any employee to attend the workplace whilst under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. However, your comprehensive alcohol and drugs policy must ensure that these issues are addressed in an open, fair, and non-judgemental way.

No employee can be forced to provide a urine, blood, saliva, or hair sample for any purpose, unless of course they have a contractual obligation to do so. If the employee is under obligation and refuses a drugs test, UK courts have ruled that in some circumstances this can be sufficient grounds for dismissal.

Your company’s drug testing policy must clearly set the benchmark for expected standards, and your policy must be brought to the attention of all potential employees, who will then understand that, during the period of their employment, they will be subjected to your company’s drug and alcohol testing policy.

How Should an Established Workplace Go about Implementing a Drug and Alcohol Policy

Drug testing in today’s workplaces comes in a variety of forms, including pre-employment testing, random testing, and post-accident testing. Some companies are against drug testing because they believe it could damage relations between employers and employees, as well as hinder both the recruitment and retention of good-quality personnel. Other companies, however, believe that drug testing in the workplace provides benefits of efficiency, safety, employee welfare, and the business’s good reputation. Companies with the strongest belief in drug testing are typically safety critical occupations, where intoxication due to drug taking could well increase the risk of accidents.

If you have now decided it’s time for your established business to implement a drug testing policy as part of your Occupational Health and Safety program, use this opportunity to clearly convey to your employees the position you’re taking on drug misuse and your expectations of your staff regarding alcohol and drug use whilst they are employed by your company. Your existing contracts with staff members will need to be amended, with their approval. Once you have their approval, you now have consent to implement your alcohol and drugs policy. All personnel with such a contract should understand that they may be subjected to random drug testing, and that using drugs in the workplace, or being under the influence of drugs whilst in the workplace, can be a dismissible offence.

Additional Considerations When Implementing a Drug Testing Policy

When implementing a new drug testing policy in an established workplace, there are a few additional considerations worth thinking about:

Communicate Clearly – Make sure to thoroughly communicate the new policy to all employees. Explain the reasons for the policy, what drugs will be tested for, how testing will be conducted, and what the consequences are for positive tests. Be transparent and give employees opportunities to ask questions. Clear communication upfront will prevent confusion and pushback later.

Train Managers – Ensure managers and supervisors understand the policy details and how to enforce it properly. Train them on signs of impairment, how to handle employee questions/concerns about testing, and how to conduct disciplinary procedures if needed. Consistent and fair enforcement by managers is key.

Consider Employee Support Systems– A good drug policy does more than punish. Think about providing access to employee assistance programs, addiction counselling services, or other support systems for those struggling with substance abuse issues. Show employees the policy aims to help them, not just discipline them.

Examine Company Culture – Take a hard look at company culture and norms that may contribute to unacceptable drug use. Overwork, high stress, poor work-life balance, boredom, and other cultural issues can factor into employee drug problems. Fixing culture weaknesses can reduce reliance on drug testing alone.

Keep Drug Testing Ethical – As much as possible, aim to conduct drug tests in an ethical manner respecting employee privacy and dignity. Arbitrary or vindictive testing erodes trust. Tests should always follow policy guidelines. Ensure proper care is taken in sample collection, chain of custody, and confidential result reporting to avoid accusations of impropriety.

Adding this type of context when implementing a new drug testing policy can go a long way toward gaining employee support and ensuring the policy achieves its aims. The transition can be smoother and more effective this way.

Drug Testing in the Workplace Must Be Fair And Carried Out with Dignity

When employers have consent for drug testing, typically when they have a full contractual Health and Safety policy included in staff contracts or staff handbooks, they must ensure that their reasons for testing are fair, that the testing is carried out under supervised conditions, and that the dignity of the person being tested is respected. In addition, the person being tested must also have been asked if they are currently taking prescription medication which might affect the testing results.

Companies must also ensure they stay up-to-date on government guidance or legislation that may have recently been introduced.

Businesses Operating in Certain Sectors May Have Higher Drug Testing Requirements

The drug testing requirements for businesses operating in certain sectors may need to be broader and more frequent, particularly those engaged in safety critical roles. Businesses operating in other European regions should check to ensure what the local restrictions might be at the testing location. Offshore civil and marine aviation should follow international guidelines.

We are here to help with any questions you may have regarding drug testing in your workplace. Please don’t hesitate to contact us by telephone or email if we can help in introducing an alcohol and drug testing policy for your business. We are proud to be one of the longest established workplace drug testing companies in the United Kingdom, so let us use our expertise to assist you in establishing the right drug testing policy for your unique business situation.

Photo by Josue Isai Ramos Figueroa on Unsplash

Zoom Testing is a leading UK drug testing company and a supplier of Drug Test Kits.

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