Drug testing is on the increase but effectiveness is inconclusive

An independent inquiry in to drug testing at work has predicted the number
of employers testing staff will increase, but warned that evidence of its
effectiveness is inconclusive.

The inquiry found that evidence of a link between drug use and accidents at
work, absenteeism, low productivity and poor performance was inconclusive, with
employers reporting very few positive tests.

After an 18-month investigation the inquiry panel said other factors such as
bad working conditions, a lack of sleep, health problems, work-related stress
and excessive workloads had a much greater impact on safety and poor

Employees working under the influence of drugs or alcohol were cited as an
obvious risk but the report warned that testing was not an effective measure of
on-the-job intoxication and could only reveal previous offences.

The evidence suggests that alcohol poses a far greater risk in the workplace
than illicit drug use, but the report claimed that testing did not act as a
significant deterrent.

The inquiry recommends that employers should use drug and alcohol testing
only in safety-critical jobs or where they believe staff are involved in
illegal activities at work, intoxicated in the workplace or where performance
slips below an acceptable threshold.

The findings, which were facilitated by Drugscope and the Joseph Rowntree
Trust, also paint a confused legal situation in the area of testing. It points
out that there is no direct legislation, with all legal decisions based on the
interpretation of human rights and data protection rules.

Ben Willmott, employee relations advisor at the Chartered Institute of
Personnel and Development, said employers should think carefully before introducing
testing. "This is a legal grey area that needs clarifying. Our research
shows staff subjected to monitoring are less likely to have high levels of
motivation and likely to suffer from stress."


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