Businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to find new recruits who can pass a pre-employment drugs test, it has been claimed.

According to an article in the New York Times, employers in the US are finding potential new employees are increasingly reluctant to take a drug test as they are worried they might fail. In America, drug testing is compulsory for safety purposes in certain industries like haulage.

Drug testing is an effective way of identifying whether there is a substance misuse problem in the workforce or whether drugs or alcohol played a part in a specific accident or disciplinary matter. Tests can also be used to monitor the progress of an individual who is a recovering addict and has abused drugs or alcohol in the past.

Statistics suggest that the reason some companies are finding it difficult to employ workers who can pass their drug tests is because more people are using illegal substances, particularly cannabis.

In America, workplace drug testing is commonplace with more than two out of three companies with more than 2,500 staff asking job applicants to take a pre-employment test before they can take up a position. Although it is less widespread in the UK, increasing numbers of employers are turning to drug testing to help keep productivity levels high, reduce absence rates and reduce the risk of workplace accidents.

Drug testing began in 1980s

The origins of workplace drug testing in the US dates back to the 1980s. The 1988 Drug-Free Workplace Act made it mandatory for most organisations with federal contracts to carry out tests on its employees. Then in 1991, drug testing became further enshrined in national law by making testing compulsory for all safety-critical jobs which were regulated by the Transportation Department.

This law change was in response to a fatal train crash in 1987 where 16 people were killed and two members of railway staff tested positive for cannabis. Once drug testing became the norm within the transport industry, more businesses and organisations began to adopt the practice themselves.

In the UK, drug testing must be mentioned in a company’s drug policy, employee handbook or in an individual’s employment contract. It is also essential that all staff members consent to taking the test beforehand, although refusing to provide a sample could be grounds for dismissal or some other form of disciplinary action.

If a member of staff takes a drug test and fails, they can be dismissed for gross misconduct.