Random drug and alcohol testing

Random drug and alcohol screening is used by many UK companies to deter the use or abuse of illegal drugs and / or alcohol by employees within the workplace. There have been a large number of case studies to demonstrate how effective random screening is in reducing accidents, absenteeism, ill health, litigation, etc, and as a result it is frequently considered to be best practice, especially in safety critical environments.

Even when a business doesn’t introduce full random drug testing, they often choose to conduct testing when there is a problem – such as incident or accident based screening or “for cause” testing when there are sufficient grounds to suspect that an employee is not fit to perform their duties due to drink or illegal drugs.

How often random drug and alcohol testing should be carried out can be determined by the business based upon a number of factors. Such factors include the nature of the business, demographics of their staff or factors relating to the culture of the business for example, a culture of lunchtime drinking.

Some companies carry out as little as 5 percent random testing (i.e. only 5% of staff are drug tested just once per year after being randomly selected), whereas other businesses may insist that every employee is screened at least once annually or more. It really depends upon the cost, certain health and safety considerations and their own drive to enforce a drug and alcohol free workplace.

Substance abuse screening in the workplace is relatively straight forward to implement and can be put into place without much expense when done correctly. Random testing of company employees can be carried out on-site for less than 10 per employee.

All a company needs to do is formulate a drug and alcohol policy – which is basically the business’s views on drugs and alcohol, what is deemed acceptable, what isn’t, and what are the consequences of breaking the rules – along with procedural information. Many companies have consultation with staff and union representatives to be sure that the company policy was developed with input from all concerned parties.

If companies find this process to be too time consuming or complex for your managers, we can develop your policy for you as consultants, or review your current draft policy to ensure that it is completely legally defensible and user friendly. Our years of experience really can make a significant difference to your company policy and allows you to implement it as fast as possible.

When you have a finished drug and alcohol policy, it is time to issue a copy of this to your employees along with an implementation date. As long as the start date for the policy is further away than their contractual notice period, when the start date arrives, the policy has become part of all employees’ terms and conditions of employment. At this point, if it is your policy that employees undergo random drug / alcohol screening or testing in accident / incident or “for cause” situations, then failure to comply constitutes a failure to undertake a reasonable request – which may have disciplinary consequences up to and including dismissal.

Ultimately, it should be every employer’s goal to remove the substance from the individual, rather than the individual from the workplace, so assistance for those who come forward to seek it is vital.

To reinforce a drug and alcohol testing policy it is a good idea to train managers in drug and alcohol awareness so that they can spot the signs and symptoms of drug misuse and understand how to deal with the situation should it arise. The majority of our business customers choose a half day of training for their managers.

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