Drug and alcohol testing in the workplace, is it fair?

Particular professions regularly use random drug testing in the workplace. This practice is more relevant in some sectors than others.  So when is it fair to ask employees to take a drug or alcohol test?

Employers must be open and transparent about what they are doing and why, as being selective about which roles are required to be tested could prove to be difficult to justify – it is important that the requirement for testing is entirely objective. Employers must articulate the reasons behind testing and establish transparent policies, ensuring that employees comprehend that the primary objective is safety, not punitive measures or unwarranted intrusion into their personal lives.

As with most employment issues, blanket policies will inevitably lead to disputes. While many contractual documents contain clauses asking employees to consent to testing, employers must always proceed with caution when relying on consent alone.  An employer may have fair reason for testing if the job involves high-risk activities such as operating heavy machinery or driving.

In the absence of a policy, an employer may be tempted to ask an employee to test anyway, if they are suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, particularly if there are concerns regarding productivity or safety. However, if there is no policy already in place, this situation should be addressed following the appropriate disciplinary policy.

If you wish to implement random testing and require a policy to support this, please contact a member of our team on 0800 9995 121 to discuss.

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