Ashlie Turner provides opinion on the contentious matter of drug testing in the workplace.
RBS Business Online Magazine, ContentLive.
- Employees are allowed to refuse to take a drugs test, though it is also acceptable in that case for them to face disciplinary action
- Recent legislation banning the sale of ‘legal highs’, as well as drugs tests to recognise their use, can make it easier for employers to enact policies against them
- The British Medical Association advises that those who have overcome substance abuse problems can prove valuable employees
Issuing drugs tests for staff can be uncomfortable and may seem unwarranted, but knowing how to deal with such cases is imperative for both employers and employees.
AN UNWANTED LEGACY
As a number of Olympian contenders fail to pass drugs tests, their reputations and the countries they represent have come under scrutiny. The desire to perform, the pressure, the likely fear of being found out, potential feelings of guilt and the prospect of missed opportunities and an uncertain future are all aspects of drug abuse that impact lesser athletes, too.
Drugs policies can be controversial areas for companies, and those that fall victim to substance abuse are often demonised. Setting in place a fair policy on testing and treatment expectations is progressively seen as more productive than simply opting for dismissal.
WHAT ARE COMPANIES ALLOWED TO DO?
Companies are entitled to recommend drugs tests for employees, including a test when someone joins a company. This is not a common procedure in the UK, though its use is reportedly rising, particularly as it may help reduce insurance premiums – especially for those in industrial industries. An employee is allowed to refuse to take a test, although the implications of this may include disciplinary action so long as the employer has reasonable grounds for requesting a test.
“In a tribunal, random testing could be seen as intrusive and heavy handed for an office role”
Ashlie Turner, founder and MD, Magenta HR
Ashlie Turner, founder and MD of Magenta HR, says that a company’s drug policies will depend on which sector it’s in. “We do have [policies for] random testing. You have an [external] organisation who says: ‘We’re going to test 10 people.’ However, it’s not that common to have companies that do that; it depends on the type of role. There’s a fine balance between that and what’s seen as appropriate for the role.”
She’s keen to point out: “In a tribunal, [random testing] would be seen as heavy handed for an office role and may be seen as intrusive.”
She says it is more common to use testing when there’s a suspected problem or for sectors where health and safety is paramount. “We do a lot of work with manufacturing and chemical companies – some firms that operate very dangerous machinery.”
Different policies may be required for different staff members, depending on their role. If an accident is caused by someone under the influence of drugs and alcohol, the company can be held responsible. The same is true if drugs are found on the premises.