Acas have produced a new guide on dealing with legal highs in the workplace.

Acas provide information, advice, training, conciliation and other services for employers and employees to help prevent or resolve workplace problems.

Legal highs are largely substances which imitate the effects of illegal drugs when consumed, but are not actually illegal themselves. As with illegal drugs, they can have a range of effects on users and employers should consider their impact on their employees and workplaces.

This new guidance can help employers assess the potential impact of legal highs in the workplace, and gives advice on how to address the issue in alcohol and drug policies, and how to deal with employees under the influence of legal highs at work.

In an attempt to control the use of psychoactive substances the Government announced new legislation in May 2015.

The Psychoactive Substances Bill will prohibit and disrupt the production, distribution, sale and supply of psychoactive substances in the UK. The Bill is currently progressing through Parliament.

The new legislation places a blanket ban on all psychoactive (or mind altering) substances, and introduces a list of exemptions for those in everyday use, such as alcohol, coffee and medicines which are regulated elsewhere, as well as drugs already banned under Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

More information on the Bill can be found from UK Parliament – Psychoactive Substances Bill [HL] 2015-16.

Alcohol and drugs policies do not have to be limited to what is and isn’t allowed by the law.

The use of alcohol is not illegal, yet most companies will have a ban or limit on alcohol consumption during working hours. Legal highs should be treated in the same way and built into Alcohol and drugs policies.

If an organisation’s policy includes drug testing this may be more challenging when trying to identify legal highs as the compounds they contain change regularly. It may be easier for the policy to focus on the effects the drugs have on employees in terms of their behaviours and ability to work, rather than the drugs themselves.

Policies should encourage users to seek help for their problems and educate staff and line managers on the signs of drug use and what to be aware of.

Dealing with someone who has a problem with using legal highs should be approached in the same way as any other workplace drug or alcohol misuse.

Random drug testing is one way for workplaces to monitor the use of ‘Legal highs’ and other illegal substances among their employees. AlphaBiolabs also offers post incident tests which can determine whether drug use played a part in an accident or disciplinary matter.

And some companies are now choosing to use drug tests as part of the recruitment process, particularly for roles in which safety is critical.