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5. Screening and testing for drugs and alcohol

Some employers have adopted screening as part of their drug and alcohol policy. If you want to do the same, think carefully about what you want screening to achieve and what you will do with the information it gives you.

There may be a case for screening, particularly in certain jobs (for example employees who make safety-critical decisions like drivers, pilots and some machinery operators). In jobs like these the misuse of drugs or alcohol could have disastrous effects for the employee, colleagues, members of the public and the environment.

Bear in mind that:

  • employees must consent to screening for practical and legal reasons
  • screening by itself will not solve problems caused by drug and alcohol misuse and, where introduced, should be part of a company’s overall health and safety policy
  • screening must be carried out properly to ensure samples cannot be contaminated or tampered with, and that testing procedures and analysis are accurate
  • employees can’t be made to take a test but, if they refuse when an employer has good grounds for testing, they may face disciplinary action

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has more information on screening in their guide Managing drug and alcohol misuse at work .

For advice on how to make sure drug testing is reliable and accurate go to the European Workplace Drug Testing Society (EWDTS) website .

Updated 2020-09-28