When Is It Appropriate For A Business To Conduct Drug Tests On Its Employees

Each individual business will have its terms of employment and for those companies that have policies relating to drug use, there are likely to be references to when it is entitled to require its employees to undertake a drug test. For more enlightened employers, this might not necessarily be to catch an employee with a view to firing them for drug use, but instead show its willingness to help employees, for example by supporting them if they need to enter a drug rehab program.

There will be companies, which, given the nature of the type of business they are, the products and services they offer, and for some regulatory and legal reasons, have no option but to have a zero-tolerance policy on drugs use. Examples of the business sectors that this might apply to include childcare. the police, the armed forces, and medical care staff, although that does not preclude any other business type from having the right to have a ‘no drugs use’ policy in place.

This brings us to the subject of this article, which is drug testing, and when an employer has the right to drug test their staff, and the reasons why they might do so. On a positive note, testing could be part of the employer’s wish to ensure that all employee’s health, safety, and welfare are given the necessary focus. This can apply both to the person who might be using drugs and to their colleagues. Appropriate circumstances for drug testing employees include the following:

Pre-Employment: As part of its recruitment process, a company has the right to request that any prospective candidate for the position makes themselves available for a drug test. Refusal to agree can be sufficient grounds to reject the candidate and this is especially so when the nature of the work the candidate is applying for means that drug use is absolutely forbidden.

Return To Work: If an employee has had a considerable amount of time off, and in particular if it was due to illness, then an employer is within their rights to carry out a drug test upon that employee’s return to work. This ensures their return to their role is not compromised and that their safety and the safety of their colleagues is assured.

Reasonable Suspicion: If there is a suspicion that an employee is using drugs then an employer may require a drug test to eliminate or confirm that suspicion. This suspicion can arise from an employee’s mannerisms and behaviours changing, a serious downturn in their performance, or from another colleague reporting that they have seen the person display symptoms of drug use, such as shaking, sweating, or agitation.

Post Incident/Accident: If an employee has been involved in a serious incident, or they are suspected of being the primary cause of an accident, then it is prudent for an employer to conduct a drug test on them. This should occur, even if the person being tested was the only person who has suffered an injury, as it can have implications for any accident investigation establishing liability, should it be found that the person was under the influence of drugs.

Randomly: Part of an employee’s contract of employment can be the acceptance that their employer has the right to conduct random drug tests on individuals, groups of employees, or the entire workforce, at their discretion. These can be conducted with zero prior notice and need not be a result of any specific suspicion or incident.

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