Drug testing at work
You don't have to resign in a blind panic, but you do need to know where you stand.
Why check for drugs?
It's acknowledged that employers have a justifiable interest in employees' drug use in certain circumstances. These include employees using drugs or alcohol in the workplace, or if drug or alcohol use is affecting your performance or safety at work. That's fair enough if you drive the school bus or perform open-heart surgery.
But the legal position for drug testing is complicated, as current measures also state that people are entitled to a private life and dignity. A drug test shouldn't be imposed on you, and should only be introduced after a consultation and in good faith.
But I don't do drugs at work
Just as it takes some time for your body to rid itself of any alcohol you may have sunk the night before, so the presence of certain drugs can be detected some time after the effects have worn off. Cannabis, in particular, can crop up in a urine test up to one month after use, basically because it isn't soluble in water.
Civil liberties groups suggest it may be an infringement of human rights in cases where recreational drug use has no effect on work performance and safety.
Do I have rights here?
In America, almost half of all private companies require workers to submit to random tests, or even incorporate it into the recruitment procedure. UK companies are beginning to follow suit, arguably because it stops insurance premiums from soaring. Ultimately, if you're aware of a firm's hiring and firing policy, or you've signed a contract that includes a clause about drug and alcohol testing, your career is in the lap of the lab.
An employer should have a written policy on drug testing, and if it is randomly done then it must be genuinely random: they can't target you because they think you might be up to something.
Can it be dodged?
Short of shaving your head, or having a ready supply of infant wee to hand, there is no sure-fire means. There are many products on the market that claim to beat the test, mostly by adding masking substances to your urine sample. However, the means of detection is becoming increasingly sophisticated, so what might work one day might fail badly the next.
But I'm innocent!
There's lots of debate over the accuracy of drug test results. If you really haven't taken drugs and your test comes back positive, it's time to have a serious talk with your boss, and if they're not listening, get some legal support.
Testing positive for drugs doesn't automatically mean dismissal. Your employer may decide to shift you to another part of the company if safety is an issue. They may even offer you help and support, especially if you're more than a recreational user. The best ammunition against a positive result is to be a star employee that they just can't live without!
Read the comment policy
Use our free question and answer service and speak to an expert!