Over zealous employers have come under attack for rushing to test their staff for drugs, with the TUC claiming that drug testing is “an intrusive and unproven science”.
The TUC argues that the law does not give enough protection to workers against the increasing use of “unjustified and degrading” testing by employers for drugs and drink and is calling for Government action.
Testing has doubled in the last decade, according to the TUC and recent research showed that one in eight firms were testing staff for drugs, while four out of five managers would be prepared to test employees if they felt productivity was at stake.
A report by the TUC, ‘Testing times’ (Hazards, Issue 84, Autumn 2003) criticises employers’ enthusiasm for drug and alcohol testing at work.
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “No-one is suggesting that it is acceptable to be high or drunk at work, but staff who may have drink or related problems need help, not disciplinary action. A policy for identifying symptoms and a programme for dealing with an employee’s drug and drink problems are far more effective than random testing.”
It recommends that the policy should state that individual confidentiality will be maintained at all times, with the emphasis on assistance and advice, not disciplinary measures and dismissal.
Rory O’Neill, editor of the TUC-backed Hazards magazine said: “Drug testing at work is a dangerous distraction, bad for safety, bad for privacy and bad for morale. Employers should stop testing and start listening.”
The TUC says testing for drugs among workers is costly and a “gross infringement” of privacy. Testing does not prove someone’s ability to do a job, but merely shows exposure to a substance maybe months before the test took place.