The government must provide clear guidance on the legality of drug testing in the workplace to prevent employers being “seduced” by testing companies, according to the TUC.
The union body, which has produced its own guidance for employers, said there is confusion around whether employers could legally test staff for drugs, either routinely or randomly, if they were in non-safety critical roles.
It warned employers were being “seduced” by drug-testing companies into using tests of “dubious legality” to combat sickness absence problems related to drugs and alcohol.
The TUC said employers that are serious about the welfare of their staff and removing drugs from the workplace would find their time better spent developing a comprehensive drugs and alcohol policy to support their staff.
Brendan Barber, the TUC’s general secretary, said: “The way to tackle this danger is by having proper policies in place for dealing with drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace, rather than introducing random testing which is not only a breach of a person’s right to privacy and dignity, but also of dubious legality.
“Levels of testing in the UK may still be well below those in the US, but many employers are being seduced by the marketing campaigns of drug-testing companies into seeing random testing as the solution to sickness absence problems. This is why the government needs to produce clear and definitive guidance on testing, especially on the legal issues.”
The TUC added it was concerned some employers could also be relying on drug testing as a means of dismissing employees without redundancy pay.
Guidance from the Information Commissioner states that testing should only be on grounds of safety and that random testing is rarely justified, and the right to an individual’s privacy at work is enshrined in the Human Rights Act.