Why every business should have a drug and alcohol policy

Webinar recording from 17th May 2022
Watch the video below:

In this workplace webinar, Verity Hodder (Workplace Sector Marketing Manager) and Barbara Wainwright (Workplace Company Trainer) discuss:

  • The impact of drug & alcohol misuse in the workplace
  • The reasons why a business needs a policy, and the risks of not having one
  • What a policy should contain, how to implement it and how it can affect your employees
  • The importance of awareness training within the workplace

AlphaBiolabs offers a comprehensive suite of drug and alcohol testing services and training for the workplace. Find out more here.

FAQs from this webinar

Would it be seen as discriminatory if management were not included in drug and alcohol testing? Or if one particular work group were “targeted” for testing?

It’s an employer’s legal responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to keep its employees safe, including manual workers, office staff, managers, and third parties.

There are usually more reasons to include the entire workforce in your substance misuse policy than there are to exclude certain team members. However, there are a couple of options for employers who only want to test a certain group of employees.

If you were to decide not to include managers in the testing process the first question would be – can you justify not doing so?

Factors to consider are as follows:

  • Do they drive as part of their role using either a company car or their personal car? Is there a potential risk of drink or drug driving?
  • Do managers work in an environment that involves walking across a factory floor? Are they interacting with or passing machinery in a high-risk area, for example where forklift trucks operate?
  • Are they responsible for the health and safety of others?
  • Do they sign off safety critical processes?

Businesses can also take a risk-based approach and only include those that work in safety critical roles in their workplace testing programme, in line with any potential risks that have been identified e.g., as machine operators or construction workers. This approach should also include roles where employees are likely to interact with members of the public.

Discrimination usually arises when you single out an individual for unjustified reasons such as:

  • Their criminal past
  • A protected characteristic such as a disability
  • Their race or religion

Whatever your policy, it’s important to remember that there should always be a legitimate reason to test.

If you are planning to apply random testing, then that process needs to stand up to scrutiny and should be included as part of your policy.

To ensure the process is fair, you should always plan to test a percentage of your workforce at random each time. This method means that if someone is picked out for testing multiple times in succession, the company cannot be accused of picking that individual on purpose.

There is no law that states who should or should not be included in a policy. The decision as to which employees to include should be based on your business risks in line with Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999) and the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

From a lab perspective, what does AlphaBiolabs tell a client with a non-negative drug test result which is below the screening cut off? For example, a substance was detected, but not enough of the substance was detected to yield a non-negative result. Should that be logged as a non-negative result?

A non-negative result can only be logged in instances where the concentration of the substance exceeds laboratory cut-off levels.

AlphaBiolabs follows Society of Hair Testing guidelines/cut-off levels for drug and alcohol testing.

If a workplace test returns a non-negative result, the sample is returned to our toxicology laboratory for analysis. A certificate of analysis is then provided directly to the instructing party, which includes the following details:

  • Donor details (e.g. name, date of birth)
  • Date and time of the test
  • Reporting date
  • Drug groups and relevant cut off levels
  • Concentration of any substances present
  • Result – Non-negative or Negative
  • Any medication declared at the time of sample collection
  • Toxicologist’s signature

If the non-negative is confirmed in the laboratory, and substances exceed the cut-off levels as set by the Society of Hair Testing, this would then be considered a confirmed, non-negative (failed) drug test.

Are there any tests that identify prescription drugs?

AlphaBiolabs can test for a variety of prescription drugs.

Below is the list of prescription drugs that can be detected using workplace drug testing.  However, it is important to note that we cannot determine if the level of use we detect is the prescribed level of use or if the individual is abusing the substance in question.

  • Morphine
  • Dihydrocodeine
  • Codeine
  • Codeine Glucuronide
  • M3G
  • M6G
  • Oxycodone
  • Amphetamine
  • Mephedrone
  • Methadone and EDDP
  • Nordiazepam
  • Temazepam
  • Oxazepam
  • Bromazepam
  • Methaqualone
  • Propoxyphene

How should organisations adapt their policy and testing methods for hybrid working?

The first thing to consider is whether your policy clearly states that an individual will be subject to testing, whether working from home, the office or hybrid working.

You cannot test someone at home but there are options available to you, should you wish to proceed with testing an employee who works remotely. Again, the justification for the test must be considered.

For cause testing where there is a reasonable suspicion:

With the right training it’s easier to spot the signs and symptoms of drug/alcohol misuse in a workplace setting, it becomes slightly more difficult when the employee is working from home.

However, there are certain triggers you can look out for by arranging a video call and requesting that their camera be turned on during the meeting.

This enables you to observe behaviour and physical signs, including:

  • General demeanour
  • Speech – is their voice slurred or incoherent?
  • Eyes – are they glazed over?

You should also consider punctuality, productivity, and general activity. Are they on time for meetings? Has their output decreased? Are they online during the hours they should be working – or are they difficult to keep track of?

Remember, if you do decide to ask the individual in question to come into the office for a drug and/or alcohol test, and you suspect them of misusing alcohol or drugs, you MUST NOT let them drive to work. Any incident/accident that occurs as a result could leave your company liable under the relevant government legislation.

Random testing:

If the individual is selected as part of a programme of random testing, arrange for them to attend work at a certain date and time to take the test.

This could be arranged as part of a general welfare check or catch-up.

Again, specify in your policy that if a home worker is invited into the office at any time, they could be subject to testing in line with the company’s substance misuse policy.

Businesses with substance misuse policies in place can also choose to arrange sample collection appointments for employees at any of AlphaBiolabs’ 11 nationwide walk-in centres.

Our expert clinicians are trained to collect a range of samples for drug and/or alcohol testing including hair, nails, urine, oral fluid (saliva), breath and fingerprint samples.