A common search term on Google these days is: Can I refuse a drugs test at work. In less than 1 minute, a search for this question will result in about 4,390,000 results. An increase in workplace drug and alcohol testing is fuelling such research as employers look to safeguard their company and staff against the consequences of drug misuse.
There are several reasons why an employee can refuse a drugs test at work. However, any refusal is going to make your employer suspicious. Here are the top five reasons for declining to partake.
1. What drug testing policy?
Employers can only drug test their employees if there is a drug testing policy in place that all staff are aware of and that they have agreed to. This drug testing policy forms the foundation of a company’s drug and alcohol testing programme and outlines the approach to substance misuse. This official document provides formal information on what constitutes non-compliance and how substance abuse issues will be handled. If you have not been provided with information about your company’s drug testing policy you can refuse to be tested and your employer is not allowed to take any action against you.
2. You can’t force me!
An obvious reason to refuse is when you know that you have been abusing drugs (illegal, prescription or over-the-counter) and do not want a positive result. In this case, you ideally want to delay any tests for as long as possible. The time taken for a drug to leave your system depends on what substance you have taken, and how much. Cannabis, as an example, could stay in your system for up to 28 days. However, if you refuse a drugs test when your employer has good grounds for testing you under a proper occupational health and safety policy, you may face disciplinary action. This could include being sacked.
3. I can’t do it.
You may decline to take part in a drugs test because you find it an invasion of privacy. You may have been taken unaware and feel unprepared. You may not feel comfortable having to pee or provide a sample on request. You may even have a medical condition that prevents you from taking part. If the drug test involves oral fluid testing, then fear of saliva is a real condition. It usually affects people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Fear of gagging, a sensitive gag response and emetophobia can also cause issues. As the oral fluid test involves placing a sample collection device in the person’s mouth for several minutes, this could be a real concern.
Shy bladder syndrome, or paruresis, is when you have trouble urinating when other people are around. As such, the use of a urine drugs test could be avoided, or at the very least, postponed. Individuals with OCD may also object to providing a urine test.
In these cases, an alternative drug testing method would be suggested.
4. I’m already on medication.
A major reason for refusing to take a drugs test is because an individual does not want it made aware that he or she is on prescribed medication. In the case of antidepressants, for example, an employee may be concerned about any stigma associated with mental health issues. It could also be that you are worried that any medication you are taking will interfere with the drug testing result. Maybe the drugs you are taking cause drowsiness and could impair your ability to do your job? If you are on any prescribed medication, this should be disclosed to your Line Manager. Bear in mind that if you refuse a drugs test, you may face disciplinary action, including being sacked.
5. It’s not my sample.
Claiming that the sample taken wasn’t yours, or was interfered with in some way, would be very difficult to prove as strict chain of custody conditions should have been followed by the sample collectors. This involves the trained collector checking your ID, performing an adulteration check, and sealing the pot or collection device with tamper-tape.
In all of these five cases, a well-managed drugs and alcohol awareness policy should have explained the testing procedure and what to expect. This would help alleviate some of your concerns. The most common forms of workplace drugs testing involve taking a sample of saliva or urine in a professional and discreet manner. There should be no need for you to feel uncomfortable or pressured into doing something you don’t want to.
A more detailed article on this subject can be found in our Learning Centre at https://www.alphabiolabs.co.uk/learning-centre/can-refuse-drugs-test/.