Alcohol and drugs testing

In some industries, such as transport or construction, an employer may want to require a prospective employee to take an alcohol or drugs test before commencing employment.

Such tests are often linked to health and safety requirements where the health and safety of colleagues or the public might be an issue.

An employer may also want to require a prospective employee to take such a test where drug or alcohol abuse in a particular job (for example the police) would compromise individual or organisational integrity.

For public sector employers this may raise issues under the Human Rights Act 1998 as applicants may allege that such requirements infringe their right to a private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Regardless of whether the employer is a public sector or private employer, it is recommended that the use and application of such tests should be justified, necessary and proportionate.

Section 4.4 of the Information Commissioner’s Employment Practices Code makes good practice recommendations with respect to the collection and handling of information derived from drug and alcohol testing.

In particular, the Commissioner recommends that:

Employers should ensure that the benefits of testing justify any adverse impact, unless the testing is required by law. An adverse impact is unlikely to be justified unless it is for health and safety reasons.

Post-incident testing where there is a reasonable suspicion that drug or alcohol use is a factor is more likely to be justified than random testing.

Employers should undertake and document an impact assessment, given the intrusive nature of testing.

Substance misuse policy

Where testing is justified the employer should have a alcohol / substance misuse policy which, amongst other things, explains the reasons why testing is deemed necessary.

Consider also: Unfair dismissal: misconduct: particular types of misconduct: Drugs and alcohol.