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Workplace Drug Testing Explained

Workplace Drug Testing Explained

Employee drug tests have long since been a feature of the workplace, and with good reason. It’s important, for example, for staff like police officers to have a clear head. Those who are responsible for delivery or lorry driving need to ensure they can focus on the road.

But did you know that in Britain businesses have the legal right to launch disciplinary activity if a worker turns down a drug test despite reasonable grounds existing for the test to go ahead? This article will explain what a business owner’s rights – and responsibilities – are in this area.

The legal situation

The law states that employees have to give their permission if their employer wants to carry out a test on them to detect the presence of illegal drugs or alcohol. Managers and bosses have to ensure that any test is random, and that only those who require a test actually get one. On the face of it, this appears to be the sort of law that holds back or adds burdens for employers.

In practice, the law means that employers actually often have greater rights in this arena than it might seem at first glance. Official government advice points out that while nobody can be compelled to sit a test, an employer who has a strong reason for going ahead with testing may well be able to launch disciplinary activity against any staff who choose not to co-operate. For the vast majority of employees, that is more than enough to ensure co-operation. It’s worth making sure that you have a drug testing policy in place if you want to press ahead with it. This should also be shown to employees – and even embedded into their contracts – before they commence work.

Right and fair

There are plenty of good reasons why employers have these rights. One is that employers have a reasonable expectation to get the most out of their workers while they are at work, and if a working environment is full of people who aren’t fully focusing due to drug use then the employer certainly stands to suffer. However, there are other reasons why employers are permitted to carry out drug tests in the right circumstances. Most drugs are mind-altering in some way: whether they slow down reactions or impede proper concentration, they can easily cause damage to occur to other employees. Anyone driving for a haulage firm, for example, needs to be drug free when they get behind the wheel or they could cause death or injury to other road users.

Your options in the workplace

If you do decide to press ahead with workplace drug tests, engaging the services of a testing company is a good idea. They can either manage the whole process or simply provide the equipment, in which case you can administer the test. Once taken, these are then sent to a drug testing lab for speedy results – allowing you to make a decision about your future relationship with your employee.

While organising drug tests may feel at first like an invasion of privacy, they’re actually essential in order to protect organisations against the issues that drug use can throw up – both for their bottom line and for their duty of care towards your employees. And with the law on their side, many employers do now go ahead and ensure testing in their workplace, often by using a reputable drug testing company.

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