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Workplace drug and alcohol testing is becoming more common, but it’s very controversial and raises questions about human rights and data protection.  

If you’re tested at work, your employer must be open about what they’re doing and why. Drug or alcohol testing needs a good reason – such as the safety-critical nature of someone’s job.

Your employer should also make it clear what substances you’re being tested for, and get your written consent before every test. They should use the least intrusive test possible. And your medical records must be kept confidential.

Full guidelines are set out in part four of the Information Commissioner’s Employment Practices Code

Testing is not a substitute for good drug and alcohol policies, developed in consultation with staff.

If you’re worried about your employer’s testing policy, go to your union rep. If you’re not already a union member, you should join and encourage colleagues to do the same.

The more union members there are in a workplace, the stronger the union's position will be when it comes to negotiating improvements to the conditions where you work.

Is it illegal to take drugs or drink alcohol at work?
It is a criminal offence for any person knowingly to permit the production, supply, possession, and use of controlled drugs on their premises except in specified circumstances such as where they have been prescribed by a doctor. It is also illegal to drink alcohol in safety-sensitive jobs or if you drive.
Should employers test workers for alcohol and drug use?
Drug and alcohol testing is highly controversial and raises issues of human rights and data protection. It is, however, becoming more commonplace.
I have failed a drug or alcohol test administered by my employer. What will happen now?
It is very likely that your employer will view this failure very seriously and it is likely to have disciplinary consequences, including even dismissal. 
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