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The importance of a drug and alcohol testing policy.

A manager recently lost his claim for unfair dismissal after he was sacked for refusing to take a workplace drug test.

An employment tribunal ruled that he should have set an example, because he had been personally responsible for enforcing his firm’s drug and alcohol testing policy.

The circumstances were unusual – the employer had received anonymous allegations about someone with the same name having been caught taking drugs in the past.

Even though the manager was not believed to be the person referred to in the allegations and he had an exemplary record, he was asked to take a test to show the matter had been fully investigated.

His employer had a comprehensive and clear policy on drug tests, which states that a refusal to take a test could result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.

The manager said the policy had not been followed to the letter but that, had it been, he would have taken a test.

Workplace testing is being ramped up by UK employers and this case brought the subject of company policies into the spotlight.

Testing is an effective deterrent to drug and alcohol use – especially when it’s carried out on a random basis.

It can also be implemented on a ‘for cause’ basis, that is to say dealing with situations where misuse is suspected or when an incident has occurred.

Another area is in pre-employment testing via recruitment agencies, especially for individuals going to work abroad or people who are coming to the UK in senior contracting roles. We are seeing quite an upsurge in activity in this field.

Crystal Health Group founder and scientific director Nichola Lawton says having a well-written drug and alcohol policy in place is vital.

Without one, a business could leave itself open to legal action over certain decisions or actions.

“We have a duty to assist employers in all aspects of the drug and alcohol testing service,” she says.

Our approach is to sit and review an existing policy or develop a new one from scratch, which ensures that best practice is integrated from the beginning and that the policy is as legally watertight as possible.

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