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Drug testing: What're your rights as employer?

by , 26 February 2013
'Oscar Pistorius case raises issue of drug testing!' That's the headline USA Today used when it came to light that the police had found 'suspicious' substances in Pristorius's home during their investigation. While later it turned out the substance was a herbal remedy, drug abuse isn't just the grounds of wealthy sportsmen. You could have an employee with a drug problem at your office. Do you know your rights when it comes to drug testing him?

Alcohol and drug abuse can cause huge expenses for your business, from lost productivity to injuries and increases in health claims. 
In fact, it's such a big health and safety issue that the Occupational Health and Safety Act actually states that as an employer, you have 'a duty to stop persons from entering or remaining at work if they appear to be under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs'.
Here's what you can do if you suspect an employee may be abusing drugs.
Your employees' rights regarding drug testing
The Health and Safety Advisor outlines four rights you should have implement?if you suspect drug abuse in the workplace. 
Right #1: You can only drug test employees if you havetheir consent 
Normally, the employee will give you permission if you have grounds for conducting a drug test under a full contractual Occupational Health and Safety Policy. Make sure this policy is set out in employees' contracts of employment or in your company handbook.
Right #2: Limit testing to only those employees that appear to need it
If you want to carry out random tests on these employees, they MUST be random. It can potentially be seen as discriminatory to single out particular employees for testing unless it's justified by the nature of their jobs.
Right #3: Searching employees is a sensitive matter
Cover yourself by implementing a written policy on this. Remember that searches should respect privacy (e.g. be carried out by a member of the same sex) and take place with a witness present. Make sure the procedure is outlined in your company's code of conduct  and Occupational Health and Safety Policy.
Right #4: You can't force your employee to take a drug test but refusal can lead to disciplinary action
But this said, if an employee refuses to take a drug test when you have good grounds for doing so under a proper Occupational Health and Safety Policy, he could face disciplinary action.
There you have it. If you suspect drug abuse in your workplace and want to drug test employees make sure you know your rights to avoid getting into trouble with the law. 

Do you want to create a drug-free workplace?

Turn to chapter D01 of your Health and Safety Advisor to find out how.

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