TUC attacks random drug tests


The TUC has criticised workplace drug and alcohol testing as “an intrusive and unproven science” and reiterated its call for government to take action on testing which has doubled in the last decade without any regulation.

A new TUC report, ‘Testing times’, suggest that one in eight companies now tests staff for drugs and four out of five bosses would be prepared to test their employees if they felt productivity was at stake.

But the TUC says that the law does not give workers sufficient protection against the increasing use of what it terms "unjustified and degrading drink and drug testing by over zealous employers."

"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," said Brendan Barber, TUC General Secretary.

"A policy for identifying symptoms and a programme for dealing with employee’s drug and drink problems is far more effective than random testing."

In a recent Chartered Management Institute survey (March 2003) over half (55 per cent) of managers supported random testing at work and over a quarter backed instant dismissal for staff with positive results.

But only around half of companies have policies for dealing with alcohol and drug use and other research found that more than eight out of ten firms do not run health awareness programmes for staff.

The TUC reserved particular criticism for workplace drug testing which it said was a costly waste of time and a gross infringement of an individual’s privacy. “Testing does not prove someone’s inability to do a job”, the report argues, “all it shows is exposure to a substance maybe months before the test took place.”

“Whilst there may be a case for testing in safety critical jobs, tests should never be randomly carried out,” the report concludes.