The use of drugs continues to be an issue for wider society but what should employers be doing to check their own staff?
With the introduction in recent years of roadside drug testing and the surge in drug-related accidents at work, employers are coming under increasing pressure to ensure their staff are fit to work.
According to a survey carried out in 2015 on employees from a range of sectors, nearly a third of them admitted using drugs at work, with a significant number claiming to be 'under the influence' every working day, warns Suzannah Robin, a drug and alcohol safety expert at AlcoDigital.
"Although there is still no legal requirement for an employer to adopt a drug or alcohol testing policy, they do have an obligation to maintain a safe working environment as part of the Health & Safety at Work Act -- and, as these statistics prove, drugs could certainly be an issue in any workplace if practices for detecting misuse aren't implemented," she explains.
"If carried out with the proper guidance and training, a drug testing policy will not only make your workplace safer, it will also help to reduce absenteeism and increase worker productivity. But how do you know what makes a good drug testing policy?", Ms Robin questions.
THE OFFICIAL LINE
The government's official line on testing is:
Employers have to have consent if they want to test for drugs. Usually this is when they have a full contractual health and safety policy, which should be in the contract or staff handbook.
- limit testing to employees that need to be tested;
- ensure the tests are random;
- not single out particular employees for testing unless this is justified by the nature of their jobs.
Workers can't be made to take a drugs test but if they refuse when the employer has good grounds for testing, they may face disciplinary action.
DRUG TESTS -- KNOW THE PROS AND CONS
However, even once approval has been obtained Ms Robin says there lots of decisions.
"With numerous options available, it isn't always immediately apparent which drug-testing method will be the most suitable for meeting your company's requirements," she warns.
One of the most popular is testing urine samples. For years these have been used for reliable and cost-effective drug testing, providing instant results.
Blood testing is the most accurate method -- but needs medical training and laboratory analysis.
Hair testing provides historic data of what drugs a person has consumed -- but not from the most recent few weeks.
Oral fluid collection is a far simpler process -- the window of detection for the drugs in saliva mimics blood testing -- making it the method of choice for UK police roadside testing and companies implementing drug screening policies.
WHY RANDOM TESTING?
Random testing will enable an employer to form a basic consent agreement with their staff, acting as a deterrent, and encouraging them to be more aware of what they are consuming and how this could have an impact on their lives, and those around them, Ms Robin suggests.