The Employees interest

THE EMPLOYEES INTEREST

With the encouragement of government, employers in a wide range of industries are therefore taking an interest in the drug-taking habits of their employees. This interest can express itself in almost pastoral terms – an offer of confidential help for anyone who might need it. But at the other end of the scale there are employers who act like private investigators, determined to catch and punish drug users.

Their reasoning is simple: if it affects their business, it is their business. Broadly speaking, if drugs or alcohol are impairing your ability to work safely and productively, your employer has a right to intervene, even if you indulge the habit outside working hours.

Testing

According to a national survey of 1,800 firms by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development:

  • 5% of businesses have a policy of randomly testing employees for drugs
  • 4% carry out random tests for alcohol
  • 9% conduct pre-employment testing for illegal drugs (fail the test and you may not get the job)
  • 9% use pre-employment tests for alcohol misuse.

But overzealous employers who insist employees submit to tests for no good reason could find themselves liable to prosecution. A positive drug test gives the employers very little information: All it shows is that at some point the person came into contact with a particular type of drug.

Unless justified on safety grounds, alcohol and drug testing should only be introduced as part of a voluntary treatment programme, says the code. And positive results for cannabis ‘should neither be recorded nor used’. This would be good news for people who smoke an occasional joint – cannabis can stay in the system for days or weeks.

Help is available at Teen Challenge London – find freedom from your drug abuse.

Sanctions

Turning up for work under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or taking drugs while on work premises, are sackable offences. ‘You are supposed to present yourself fit for work – it would be difficult to defend someone in these circumstances.

Turning up with a hangover is a grey area. You are probably going to be late and you are not going to be very effective when you are in. The axe however is unlikely to fall for a first (or very infrequent) offence: ‘What would be most suitable would be for an organization to give the employee a warning and a chance to improve. Most employers won’t care if you do it once a year. It’s just when it affects your productivity.’