Looking at the make-up of today’s workforce it is not surprising that the
issue of alcohol and substance abuse remains as live as ever. Today’s managers
were part of the first generation to experiment widely with drugs, although not
all of them inhaled. The so-called Generation X has also made headlines on
occasion. So where does this leave employers?
Personnel Today’s survey with Alcohol Concern and DrugScope shows that four
in 10 employers have either started testing or are considering introducing random
drug-testing and three-quarters would like to ban lunchtime drinking. There are
good reasons for this. Too many businesses are suffering because of absenteeism
and poor performance due to drugs and alcohol. More important, employers cannot
afford to take risks with health and safety, especially with corporate
manslaughter law on the horizon.
But should firms extend drug and alcohol testing to other staff, such as
office workers, whose work does not pose a threat to themselves or the public?
Forcing staff to give urine samples does not fit with the shift in UK
management away from the command and control culture. Nor will it help
companies recruit and retain talented younger staff as they will be perceived
as authoritarian. The key point, though, is that such an approach would
undermine the subtle relationship of trust between employers and employees.
It is far better to deal with drugs and alcohol by having clear policies,
educating the workforce about the dangers of substance abuse and learning how
to identify when individuals have a problem and providing support for them to
overcome it. Random testing of staff in non safety-critical jobs should be an
absolute last resort.