How To Implement Random Drug Testing In The Workplace

Peninsula Team

July 16 2010

It is becoming more common for employers to perform drug tests on their employees, especially when jobs include safety critical decisions (e.g. pilots, drivers, some machinery operators, etc). Employers have a duty of care towards the safety of their employees and therefore need to assess the potential risks posed by perhaps an individual who is working whilst under the influence of drugs.

Although there is no legislation which states that employers have the right to test employees for drug use, it is clearly recognised that certain job roles require this type of monitoring and tests are needed.

It is important that employers have a written policy relating to the use of illegal substances in their organisation which, amongst other things, outlines the way in which employees will be dealt with should a drugs test be carried out.

Many employers find that random drug tests are a major deterrent of drug use due to the unpredictable instances at which they can be carried out. Random tests are just that – not triggered by any particular event or suspicion, picking anyone from a group. It is important to maintain the unsystematic nature of random tests. Unfairly singling someone out can lead to claims of discrimination.

Many employees will understand the requirement for a drug test because of the nature of their work, and look upon it as part and parcel of the job. There may, however, be a few who do not want to be tested. You cannot force an employee to be tested but in the event that you are met with refusal, you should not automatically assume guilt. Where it is a contractual obligation to provide a sample you can deal with the refusal via your organisation’s disciplinary procedure.

Tests can be done in various ways, using urine, blood, hair, saliva, etc. Where tests are carried out, they should always be done in a way that assures the dignity and confidentiality of the employee is kept in tact. Tests should be carried out in a private location, by a member of the same sex as the employee being tested. Consider any requests by the employee to have a witness present.

You should make employees aware that it will be considered a disciplinary offence if they are caught deliberately attempting to falsify results.

If a test is returned with a positive result, you should allow the employee the opportunity to offer an explanation. An employee taking medication prescribed by a doctor can sometimes give a positive result in a drugs test so it is important you determine the source of the result.

Where the result is evidence of drug taking, you should deal with the employee through your usual disciplinary procedure and, in circumstances where this is warranted, dismiss the employee.

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