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Alcohol and Drug Testing in the Workplace

Alcohol and drug testing in the workplace can be incredibly intrusive.  However, it can be warranted in certain workplaces, particularly businesses within the manufacturing or industrial sectors where health and safety is paramount.  The invasive nature of such tests will generally be overridden where there is an overriding objective to protect the health and safety of workers or third parties where employees are operating machinery or driving vehicles.  

This week, we bring you our top tips on substance misuse testing within the workplace to ensure employers adopt a fair and reasonable approach when introducing such a practice.

1. Have a substance misuse policy in place which clearly sets out your rules on alcohol, drugs and other substances within the workplace.  Ensure this is also communicated to your staff.  

2. In high risk workplaces, why not consider having a contractual clause which permits testing so your employees are aware of the possibility and the process which will be followed.

3. Remember, certain prescription medication can have an impact upon staff.  Make sure staff know to inform you of any medication they are taking which could impact on their ability to safely perform their job.

4. Consider whether you will implement random or specific testing or both.  In high risk environments, random testing will be appropriate where a small section of your workforce is tested on a completely random basis.  

5. Think about what equipment you wish to purchase.  Breathalysers can be purchased relatively cheaply with disposable mouth pieces to test for alcohol levels.  For drugs testing, saliva or no-invasive urine testing kits can be purchases for a reasonable price.

6. You can outsource the testing but, for employment law purposes, purchasing your own equipment will usually suffice.  You do not need proof ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’, as is required in criminal cases, to take action against an employee. 

7. If you decide to implement testing, the first step is to react quickly.  If you suspect an employee is under the influence of a substance whilst at work, ensure a test is carried out then and there.

8. Tests can only be carried out with employee consent, so make sure you have a consent form which the employee signs to confirm they consent to the test. 

9. If an employee refuses to give consent that will usually be grounds for disciplinary action to be taken as inferences can be drawn from a refusal.

10. Tests should be carried out by a manager and verified independent witness.  Make sure the results are recorded on the consent form and that the form is signed by the manager, the employee and the witness.

11. If the results are positive, suspend the employee before following a fair disciplinary procedure to deal with the issue.  Attending work under the influence can be grounds for dismissal.

12. Be wary of staff with substance misuse problems.  Those with an addiction should be supported in accessing the relevant help.  Also, addiction can bring with it health problems which may amount to a disability so caution needs to be taken.

Here at SCE Solicitors, our very own Samira Cakali has a wealth of experience in assisting manufacturing and other clients on issues of substance misuse in the workplace.  If you would like to discuss a substance misuse policy, testing in the workplace or any other employment law issue, please contact her on 01133 50 40 30 or at hello@scesolicitors.co.uk.

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SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment law and dispute resolution practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide.  Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

Samira Cakali

Samira Cakali is a pragmatic and approachable solicitor advocate with extensive contentious and non-contentious experience in the fields of employment law as well as civil litigation, within a range of commercial businesses from SME’s to multinationals as well as senior executives.

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