What To Do When You Think An Employee’s On Drugs…

psychiatrist examining a maleAlthough testing employees for drug abuse is commonplace in some countries, such as the United States, it has not gained as much traction in the United Kingdom.

Certain employers who are concerned about their staff’s behaviour, or others who simply want to make sure their team is working at 100 percent every day, have questions about the legality of screening employees for drug use.

The answers are not cut and dry, so it’s important to understand all the legal aspects of this choice, which will be outlined here.

Informed Consent

The most important thing to keep in mind is that the ability to drug test an employee or a potential hire in the UK requires their informed consent, plain and simple.

However, if the boss suspects an issue is occurring and the staff isn’t providing consent, the employer can impose disciplinary actions.

Tribunal courts have ruled in certain situations that not providing consent to a drug test under suspicions can be ground for dismissal.

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Employee Handbook

To prevent incidents where an employee may not provide content, create a policy of no tolerance for drug abuse.

Include your right to drug test in the health and safety policy in either the employee handbook which all new hires will receive, or in the contract you sign with your employees.

Certain Professions

Drug testing is more common for certain professions, such as safety-critical industries like transportation.

In fact, The Transport and Work Act of 1992 states that operators of transport systems will be found guilty if they have not shown due diligence in preventing employees from working while intoxicated or using drugs.


There is no straightforward answer on what employers are allowed to do if a staff member has been found in possession of or using drugs.

Certain fields, such as public sector workers, are protected by the Human Rights Act of 1998, which entitles them to privacy.

As such, they cannot be dismissed if found using drugs outside of the office.

Additionally, the Information Commissioner’s Office addressed privacy and data protection considerations in regards to drug testing, and concluded that mostly this type of testing is “an unwarranted intrusion,” according to the Trades Union Congress.

The bottom line is it is wise to include the right to drug test in employee handbooks and contracts to protect yourself.

Should you consider actually implementing the testing, it is advantageous to consult a legal team to make sure you are not breaking any rules or laws.

Thanks again

Mark Williams

Head of Training and Development

MTD Training | Management Blog | Image courtesy of Big Stock Photo

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