If you have a valid reason for doing so, you can carry out alcohol and drug testing at work. However, employees must know that this could happen, the drug testing at work must be carried out by someone specifically qualified to do it and the person interpreting the results must have the necessary skills.
In Chivas Brothers Ltd v Christiansen  the employee worked for a distiller and distributor of alcoholic drinks, which (as part of their health and safety policy) carried out random alcohol and drugs testing on employees if they thought it was necessary.
The employee in question suffered with depression, which the distiller knew about. He was taking medication for his depression, fell asleep at work and argued that this was because of the medication. However, the employer asked him to take a drugs test and he refused. He was asked again and refused again, and was dismissed.
His claim of unfair dismissal was successful. The employer had conceded that the employee posed no health and safety risk. He had given his employer a valid reason for falling asleep, and supplied medical evidence to support his position. The employer had not had regard to this when considering his refusal to take the drugs test and the medical documentation which the employee had produced had been ignored.
- Only carry out alcohol and drug testing at work if you have a valid reason for doing so. Alcohol and drugs testing is only likely to be justified for those working in safety critical roles.
- Employees must be told that the testing could take place. They need to be told the procedure that will be followed, and how the results will be used.
- Carefully consider whether the employee’s explanations are reasonable and take account of the evidence when considering whether testing is required.
- Make sure that any results of such alcohol or drugs testing on employees are kept confidential, and are only accessible to those who need to know the results.
Take medical advice before using the results as a basis for dismissal.
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