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Drug testing of employees

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Employers have a duty under health and safety legislation to ensure that their employees and workers do not put themselves or others in danger through their actions and behaviour.

An employee who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol could present a particular danger where their employment involves them operating machinery or vehicles. Therefore, it would seem incumbent on the employer to be able to test employees for substance abuse, even where the drugs have not been consumed on the premises.

However, employers should be careful not to contravene other areas of the law in the process. Forcing employees to provide a sample could constitute criminal assault. Drug-testing policies and measures should be proportionate to the risks involved and balance the right of an employee’s private life with recognising the Human Rights Act. Employees’ personal data should be processed in accordance with the Data Protection Act. Clear policies and procedures should be drawn to the attention of employees and their consent to these obtained wherever possible. Employers should seek legal advice if they are uncertain about what they are permitted to do.

If employers do find themselves in a dispute with their employees, it is important to obtain any necessary advice and assistance as soon as possible. The employment conciliation service, ACAS, claims that employers using its services to avoid disputes going to the tribunal, save an average of £5,200 in costs. ACAS offers third party mediation as part of its free pre-claim conciliation service. This can prevent the time and costs involved in lengthy tribunal claims and the resulting loss of work time and adverse publicity that often occur.


Written by Andrew Hodges

December 14, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Posted in Comment, LinkedIn

Tagged with , ,

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