Drug misuse in the workplace can cause serious problems for the user, the company they work for, and even their co-workers.
The possession of certain drugs is illegal, and if an employer is knowingly allowing drug-related activities in the workplace while failing to act, they could also be breaking the law.
Currently the UK government and the Health and Safety Executive believe there isn’t a need for widespread drug testing in the workplace, yet with over one million people under the influence of drugs or alcohol at work in the UK, it is clearly a serious problem. It affects companies of all sizes and without holding staff to account everyone loses.
Drug testing is often used in safety critical areas, such as the Armed Forces, police, prison service, public transport (including transport and Driving/shipping companies), energy generation and construction. But this can potentially affect every industry.
Explain why drug testing is important
Although workplace drug testing is often essential in certain industries, it can damage relations between a company and their employees unless it is implemented with care and purpose. It is important to explain to workers why there is a drug testing programme in place.
Employees who are under the influence of drugs deliver a lower level of productivity, as well as putting themselves and others at risk. Drug use can impair a person’s judgement, perception, and concentration, which can lead to an increase in the risk of accidents, placing the individual and others in danger. Drug use in the workplace can be particularly concerning for certain industries, such as construction, where being under the influence of drugs at work could lead to an injury or fatality. Even in a small office drug and alcohol use increases the rates of bullying, absenteeism and quality of work delivered.
Understand the different methods and drug detection periods
There are several types of drug testing:
All of these tests provide different drug detection periods depending on the type of drug tested. DNA Legal provide hair drug testing and fingernail drug testing and both of these cover up to a 12-month history of drug use. Blood and urine testing provide a much shorter detection period usually 1–5 days depending on the drug taken, for example, cocaine can be detected in blood and urine up to 3 days after use. A urine test can detect regular marijuana use for weeks after use. Blood testing is able to detect recent use, but because of the invasive manner blood tests are used less frequently.
Use reliable testing kits
In order to implement an effective and actionable drug testing programme, it is essential that you acquire an accurate and reliable means of testing. Testing companies that are ISO 10725 accredited are formally recognised as reliable, arcuate, ethical and competent and COFRAC/UKAS accredited for laboratory using monitored testing protocols and strict Standard Operating Procedures. Choosing an accredited company to perform your drug tests ensures that you can be confident in the accuracy of results and quality of the testing process.
Know your employee’s rights
Drug testing in the workplace is legal as long as it is administered fairly, however it is not enforceable by law. A company that wishes to implement a drug testing programme must clearly state so in an employee’s contract or the company’s health and safety policy or handbook. The policy should state:
- What the programme is trying to achieve
- How the drug tests will be conducted
- What disciplinary action will be taken if a drug test result returns positive
The company must obtain the employee’s consent before undergoing a drug test. An employee can refuse to take part in a drugs test but if they do refuse when the employer has good grounds for testing, they may face disciplinary action. In cases where pre-employment drug testing is required and the applicant refuses, they will potentially be turned down for the job.
The UK government states that employers should not single out individual employees for drug testing unless this is justifiable based on the nature of their job. Employers may target individuals if they believe there has been a decline in their work performance, behaviour or they have strong reasons to believe they have been misusing drugs. Widespread drug testing should always be random or as the result of an accident or incident.
For more information, read our guide on employee rights.
Types of drug testing
Pre-employment drug testing is when an employer tests all potential employees or applicants prior to their employment. During this period, the subjects are at their most vulnerable because they are not employed meaning they have few employment rights. A company performing pre-employment drug testing should have a written policy that requires job applicants to be drug free, and they should supply written notice before the applicant is tested. For more information, read our guide on pre-employment drug testing.
Post incident drug testing is when an employer tests employees after an incident causes an injury, damage, or is a near miss, and it cannot be explained through other workplace failures, such as a mechanical failure. Post incident drug testing should only be done when the employee’s actions have contributed to the cause of the incident.
Random drug testing is often used to deter employees from misusing drugs. If an employer wants to undertake random drug taking they must ensure that it is genuinely random, targeting an individual or group of individuals has the potential to be discriminatory. The testing programme should be implemented for all employees, and testing should occur at random intervals.
Drug testing service
DNA Legal is accredited for:
- ISO 9001 - quality assurance end-to-end.
- ISO 14001 - environment management.
- ISO 17025 COFRAC/UKAS– laboratory testing protocols and strict Standard Operating Procedures.
- ISO 27001 – Ensuring Information Security for all clients.
DNA Legal provide an ISO 17025 accredited drug testing service, using hair and fingernail testing to provide employers with up to 12 months of drug use history. Please get in touch for more information or a quote.