Why Do People Get Drug Tested in the Workplace?

Why Do People Get Drug Tested in the Workplace?

In 2022, more and more workplaces are introducing routine drug testing for employees. In this article, we’ll explore how this is done and the reasons why companies choose to do this. 

Have you ever had to have a drug test in work? Well, in some professions you could face a routine check or have one sprung on you randomly, especially if you’re in charge of heavy machinery. 

Drug testing in the workplace is becoming ever more common in the UK and, with the importation of drugs becoming a serious problem, it’s thought that around 18% of UK businesses have a policy of routinely testing employees for drug use. 

In this article, we’ll examine this more closely, including the reasons for performing this testing.

What is Drug Testing?

This is the act of performing a test to ascertain whether or not an employee has illegal drugs in their system. This is usually done by testing urine or saliva, although some employers choose to test hair. 

The reason for this is that, if an employee is aware of a forthcoming test, they will ‘pass’ a urine or saliva test as long as they abstain from drugs for 5-7 days. Tests on hair, on the other hand, will show significantly more historic drug use. 

Some businesses will also conduct checks on employee’s personal property, such as bags and pockets to ensure that staff are not bringing drugs or alcohol into the workplace.

What Kinds of Drugs do Companies Test For?

During drug testing, companies will be looking for evidence that the employee has consumed illegal drugs and, these may include: 

  • Cannabis
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Methamphetamine
  • Ecstasy
  • Steroids

In some cases, while a drug may be illegal for recreational use – for example, steroids, it may be prescribed by a doctor for medical purposes. For this reason, it’s a good idea for employees to make human resources aware of any drugs which they are taking regularly and legitimately. 

Why Do Companies Drug Test Employees?

There are a number of reasons for businesses to choose to test employees and, these include: 

Health and Safety

Drugs and alcohol can severely impair our judgment and can cause accidents. This is particularly dangerous when an employee’s job involves the operation of machinery such as forklift trucks or cranes. 

As well as endangering the lives of the employee and others, workplace accidents can also cost a business in terms of reputation and also, financially. 

In some extreme cases, a business may even face legal action over employee drug use. For example, if an employee suffers a drug overdose while in the workplace – even though the drugs were not provided or permitted by the employer.  

Employee Wellbeing

An employer has a responsibility for the health and wellbeing of employees. As such, a company may reasonably choose to perform drug testing in order to identify any employees who are suffering from substance abuse problems and to therefore offer help. 

Such help may include medical intervention or counseling designed to assist the employee in overcoming problems such as substance abuse addiction.

 Valid Insurance

In many instances, in particular jobs which involves driving, a business is able to gain more cost-effective insurance policies if it is able to prove, on a regular basis, that employees are drug-free. Over time, this can result in some significant cost savings for the business. 

Criminality in the Workplace

Taking and possessing of drugs such as those mentioned above is against the law and can carry penalties such as fines and even custodial sentences. As such, many companies seek to remove any form of criminality from their organization, in order to avoid a reputational crisis. Why Do People Get Drug Tested in the Workplace?

Productivity from Employees

Businesses hire employees to get a job done and a person who is under the influence of illegal drugs is often unlikely to be capable of doing their job to the best of their ability. This translates into a lack of productivity and, therefore, value for the employer. 

Can an Employee Refuse a Test?

Although a considerable number of companies are making the decision to test employees for drug use, this is not something that they are able to do without the consent of employees. To do this, a business needs to put in place an official policy which the employees then have to agree to in writing. 

When such a policy is in place, the company can then carry out drug testing either as a standard procedure at regular times or randomly. This means that, should an employee refuse to be drug tested, they may be subject to disciplinary action. 

In most cases, an employer will employ a ‘three strike’ rule whereby, should an employee be found to have failed a drug test three times, they may be dismissed from their job. 

As well as testing existing employees, some companies choose to perform drug testing during the hiring process. This can mean that, should a candidate fail a drug test then they may be eliminated from the process. 

Health and Safety Must be Prioritised in the Workplace…

In recent years, there have been a number of conversations about employer and employee rights, including ‘big brother’ tactics. Some tactics such as checking on employee social media activity and other checks, are seen by some as crossing the line between monitoring professional conduct and infringing on employee privacy. 

While some may feel that obligatory drug testing is an infringement of privacy, this can be seen as a way of not only protecting the company’s interests but, also, a way of safeguarding the health of all employees.

Please be advised that this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a trained legal professional. Be sure to consult a lawyer/solicitor if you’re seeking advice on the law. We are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information on this site.

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Why Do People Get Drug Tested in the Workplace?