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Drug testing in the workplace

The 2017/18 Crime Survey for England and Wales found that one-third of adults aged 16–59 took illicit drugs at some point in their lifetime. Some 4.3% of them had done so in the last month.

Depending on the industry, an organisation might feel justified in supporting a policy of random drug testing — especially with the above figures in mind. But before an employer starts testing employees left, right and centre, it’s important that they understand the processes and regulations.

Laws on random drug testing in the workplace

Drug testing can be quite a difficult and time-consuming policy to establish.

Remember, an organisation must have consent from its employees to test them for drugs. This consent is usually included in the individual’s contract.

The law imposes various requirements on employers who wish to undertake random drug testing in the workplace. These include:

  • limiting drug testing to the specific group of employees that the organisation needs to test
  • ensuring the tests are random
  • not singling out an employee unless justified by the nature of their job.

If there is a policy, with procedures in place and an employer has good reasons for testing for drugs — whether it is essential to do so for certain roles or where there is reasonable cause to believe an employee is under the influence — and someone refuses to take the test, the employer may resort to disciplinary action.


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