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TUC calls for Government guidance on legality of workplace random or routine testing for drugs

The TUC has called on the Government to produce clear guidance on drug-testing to clear up the confusion around the legality of random or routine testing in jobs that are not safety-critical.

In a new guide for union safety reps published today, the TUC affirms drugs and alcohol have no place in the workplace. Any person working under the influence of any kind of performance-influencing drug, whether illegal or prescription, may pose a real danger to themselves, their colleagues or the public.

Drug Testing in the Workplace says where employers are using drug-testing techniques, checks on staff are unable to tell whether a member of staff is under the influence of drugs. The tests will only show the presence of chemicals - left in the body after drugs have been taken - in hair follicles, blood or urine.

The TUC report claims some employers may be using random drug-testing to try to get rid of employees and then avoid paying redundancy pay.

It says rather than resort to drug-testing, employers that are serious about the welfare of their staff and removing drugs from the workplace will find their time better spent developing a comprehensive drugs and alcohol policy that supports staff.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Clearly no employer can ignore drugs use in the workplace. Individuals who come to work under the influence of any kind of performance-influencing drug may not only be risking their own safety but also that of others around them.

"But 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.

"Drug-testing techniques are not going to help employers combat absenteeism and tests can never be a substitute for a comprehensive drugs and alcohol policy aimed at supporting staff, and ensuing that no one in the workplace is working under the influence of drink or drugs."