Can employees working from home be tested for drug and alcohol use?

Can employees working from home be tested for drug and alcohol use?

With more and more businesses moving to remote and hybrid working models, AlphaBiolabs are receiving a lot of questions about remote drug and alcohol testing options for staff who are working from home.

Before lockdown, drug and alcohol misuse in the workplace posed a problem for employers across the country. According to last year’s CIPD report, just over a third of employers had disciplined someone for alcohol misuse in the past two years, and just over a quarter had disciplined someone for drug misuse.

Many employers are now realising the scale of the issue as the pandemic comes to an end. Last year, figures from Drinkaware showed that 26% of adult drinkers were consuming more alcohol during the early stages of lockdown. This rose to 36% among the 9.6 million people on furlough.

In this article, we’ll answer some of the most commonly asked questions we receive from employers across the UK.

Can an employer test remote employees for substance use?

Prohibiting the use of alcohol or illegal substances during working hours is a reasonable and enforceable clause in most employment contracts. However, employers do need consent from their employees to perform drug and alcohol testing, both in the workplace and at home.

Clear justification for testing employees is also required, whether they’re based on-site or at home. If there is no clear business reason to ban the use of alcohol or drugs, your business must consider whether testing is an appropriate measure. It is also worth thinking about what your ‘trigger’ for testing would be.

AlphaBiolabs provide a variety of workplace drug and alcohol testing options to suit different scenarios, including:

  • Random or unannounced
  • For cause / with cause / reasonable suspicion
  • Post-accident or incident
  • Pre-employment
  • Post-rehabilitation / return-to-work / abstinence / follow-up
  • Job specific

What are the signs that a remote employee is misusing alcohol or drugs?

When employees aren’t in the office, it can be harder to spot the signs of drug or alcohol use. However, there are still some things you can look out for.

Managers should be trained to look out for issues such as being consistently late for morning meetings and calls, or more errors than usual in an employee’s work. Noticeable changes in character and behaviour can also be signs of drug or alcohol misuse.

It is important for line managers to have regular meetings with their team members, while helping to monitor workloads and stress levels.

What should I do if I suspect an employee is misusing alcohol or drugs during working hours?

Your first step should always be to consult your workplace’s drug and alcohol policy, and alert the employee’s line manager. The line manager will normally be best placed to have an initial conversation, as they are likely to know the individual well.

It isn’t advised to move straight into disciplinary action. Encouraging the employee to seek professional support via an assistance programme would be more beneficial. However, if the employee refuses to seek help or take steps to improve, disciplinary action may be necessary.

How can I protect my business against alcohol and drug use amongst remote staff?

Implementing a robust workplace drug and alcohol testing policy is the first step in protecting your business.

At AlphaBiolabs, our team of experts can help you to develop a policy tailored to your organisation. We can also advise on the different types of workplace testing and help you to identify which ones might be the best fit for your business.

To learn more, get in touch with our dedicated Workplace team on 0333 600 1300 or email