Alcohol and Drugs testing at work

November 10, 2015

Some facts that may surprise you – National statistics suggest that:

Alcohol&Drug testing medium

  • Illegal drug use is rising in the UK
  • The estimated annual cost of drug addiction on society is £15.4B
  • Nearly one in three British adults has taken an illegal substance
  • 1.6M people are dependent on alcohol in England alone
  • An estimated 40% of accidents at work involve or are related to alcohol use
  • Alcohol related absence has been estimated to cost British industry £1.7B a year
  • Up to 17M working days are lost each year because of alcohol-related
  • Effectiveness and safety can be compromised by those who attend work whilst affected by drugs or alcohol.

All employers have a duty of care towards all their employees so having an alcohol, drugs and substance abuse policy is key. HR180 can help you design such a policy, which should explain who it applies to and whether any particular group(s) is subject to tighter restrictions. The rules and procedures about alcohol and drug use should set out what constitutes misuse, (e.g. whether having alcohol at lunchtime is acceptable) and what disciplinary action may be taken. The policy should also outline any testing process, including why tests may be carried out, who will administer them, and what will happen if there’s a positive test result.

The purpose of testing is to help with the identification of employees with alcohol and/or drug related problems. You must always remember to treat any testing sensitively and confidentially so you’re not in breach of the Data Protection Act. Employees would be expected to comply with all reasonable requests to undergo any tests, as failure to consent may be regarded as a disciplinary offence.

Any member of your team who tests positive for drugs or alcohol should be invited to an investigative hearing. Be careful not to judge the situation and always give the individual the chance to explain their actions. If they claim to be suffering from an addiction they should be treated as if they are suffering from an illness and disciplinary action may not be appropriate. You would want to see that the individual has sought medical advice and carry out regular checks, you could consider whether you should assist treatment, e.g. by helping with cost of counselling. If they’re a valued member of staff you need to try to do whatever you can to keep them but remember you need to be fair and consistent with regards to your other people – they’ll have long memories!

Someone who suffers ill health as a result of addiction, may be deemed to have a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010. Therefore gaining occupational advice can provide you valuable information as to how to manage this situation supportively. It is vital that employees report to work in the mental and physical condition necessary to perform their job in a satisfactory manner.

Sources: British Drugs Survey 2014, International Labour Organisation (ILO), Institute of Alcohol Studies, Public Health England

Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

Why not join our mailing list...




  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.