Workplace & Employment Drug Testing Kits ~ Information for UK Employers

Information for UK employers who are using onsite drug & alcohol testing kits for workplace drug testing 

Drugs in the UK workplace

Drug use is an increasing problem for UK employers. Evidence suggests the risks from employees attending work under the influence of both drugs and alcohol have increased in the last 10 years. Drugs have multiple effects on the brain and the body, often lasting for long after the drug is consumed, and this can affect an employee's performance at work, even if the misuse takes place outside the place of work. 

What businesses drug test?

Drug testing is very common in businesses which are safety critical such as construction, logistics, scaffolding, railways and any business where the use of drugs or alcohol by an employee might have serious health and safety consequences.

Why should employers introduce workplace drug testing

Employers have a duty to ensure a safe workplace, as far as is reasonably possible, this should include measures to ensure that their employees are not a danger to other employees or the general public, as a consequence of illicit drugs or alcohol while working. This may involve workplace drug testing employees.

Drug testing in the workplace, UK law

If you are an employer wanting to test staff for drugs of abuse, consent has to be given before you can perform workplace drug testing on your employees . If your contract of employment has no drug and alcohol testing clause, you may still approach any employee and request they provide a sample for drug and alcohol testing, at any time. They can refuse.

Do employees have to consent to a drug test?

Yes without consent an employer may not legally perform a drug test on an employee in the UK. It is important to obtain informed written consent from the employee before every drug test.

As an employer you can not force an employee to take a drug test, without their consent, and it is advisable to always have written consent and to advise the employees which drugs you will be testing them for.

Drug and alcohol testing policy UK workplace

It is recommended if you are that you have a contract clause as a part of the basic employment contract for all staff, covering random workplace drug and alcohol testing, with a clear statement of the companies drug and alcohol policy, making it clear that attending the workplace under the influence of drugs and alcohol is unacceptable. 

Having a workplace drug and alcohol policy lets you clearly communicate to your employees your position on drug misuse together with your expectations of them regarding drugs and alcohol use during their period of employment.

Once agreed this forms a basic consent agreement for the employee. All staff with such a contract may be subject to random drug tests and have agreed that the use of drugs in the workplace, or being under the influence of drugs in the workplace, is a dismissible offence.

It is also important to operate the workplace drug testing program in a fair and appropriate fashion, and keep up to date on any introduced government legislation or guidance, regarding workplace drug tests in the UK.

What drugs do I need to drug test for as an employer?

On-site workplace drug testing is easy to do in-house, saves money and time and will quickly screen out all your negative results, allowing your staff to get back to work with the minimum of disruption.

If you are workplace drug testing in the UK, we recommend a minimum combination workplace drug test kit, this should include the core 4 drug groups listed below plus the addition of some or all of the additional 3 groups suggested. This set forms the baseline for most workplace drug screening, on to which additional drug groups can be added if required. If you are aware of a specific issue with a single drug in your workplace or local area, we would still recommend screening for these common drug groups as well, to ensure you have undertaken a comprehensive drug screen. Additional drugs can be added which are either specified contractually or known to be locally available and problematic in the demographic of your employees that are being drug tested. 

Workplace drug tests UK

The base core drug groups that you should test if you are drug testing in the workplace in the UK for are:

  • Cannabis
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamine
  • Opiates
  • + Methamphetamine and/or Methadone and/or Benzodiazepines
  • Swap Benzodiazepine for Methamphetamine screening for safety-critical workplace drug screening where sedation risk is greater. Consider adding Methadone if there is a local problem known or you employ drivers who are subject to roadside drug tests.

Have a look at our workplace drug testing kits section on our website.

Drug testing at work-where to start

All the instant drug testing kits listed in the workplace section of our website will comply with current HSE expectations for drug testing in the workplace in the UK, and employment and pre-employment drug test screening.

We offer a large range of combinations, up to 13 drugs if required, but most employers don't need to screen 13 drug groups, 6 or 7 is considered best practice and will cover the majority of what you would normally detect. 

If you have not drug tested before, start with the workplace 7 drug cup drug testing kit for urine or the UKDT 6 drug + alcohol saliva drug test.

Exceptions to the above advice for workplace drug testing UK include transport, construction industry and the railways (line side certification) where more extensive drug screening for 10 or 11 drug groups is the norm.

Most UK employers prefer saliva-based first line instant drug tests for workplace drug testing

Increasingly UK employers opt for an instant saliva drug testing kit for their first line screening test. This is fine, but urine drug testing still offers longer detection.

When considering oral fluids or saliva drug test kits, versus other drug testing methods for workplace drug testing in UK, consider the following points:

  • No urine collections (consider integrated urine cup tests as a solution)
  • Observed sample collections without privacy issues 
  • Can be performed on-site anytime and anywhere with immediate results 
  • More-invasive (saliva testing normally involves swabs on sticks into the mouth) 
  • Saliva drug testing eliminates the need for same-gender sample collections/observation
  • Saliva drug testing integrity (difficult to adulterate as directly observed) 
  • Results available in 10 minutes (same as urine)
  • No additional equipment (same as urine)
  • No complicated operator training required for either saliva or urine drug tests
  • Saliva drug tests detect drugs for much shorter times (windows) after use, they may detect recent drug use slightly faster than comparable urine tests

Click here for saliva drug test kits suitable for employers for workplace drug testing in UK

What to do after a positive workplace drug test result on the instant drug test

With every brand or type of instant near patient workplace drug testing kit you use, all non-negative results need to be confirmed. Positive results should be cross-referenced with the manufacturer's data sheet for legally consumed medications and pharmacy medicines. 

If the employee is undertaking a safety critical role they should not be allowed to continue work until the instant drug test result is checked. No disciplinary action should be taken until the drug test confirmation is completed, so the normal action is to suspend them on full pay, pending further investigations. 

Confirm all non-negative instant workplace drug tests results with a lab drug test

The ultimate confirmation test is a laboratory gas chromatography/mass spectrometry drug test, often abbreviated to GC/MS test of the original sample., performed in an accredited laboratory. Accreditation ensures ongoing quality control of the drug test results.

The samples sent, almost always urine, need to be collected using a full chain of custody system and documentation to allow the reported certificate of results to be admissible evidentially in a tribunal or disciplinary proceedings. By using a full chain of custody confirmation system, employers protect themselves from legal challenges following disciplinary proceedings. 

Workplace drug test accuracy

Employers should always consider instant drug tests range between 97-99% accurate compared to GC/MS, but these drug tests will not differentiate between metabolite, legally prescribed and consumed drugs (often opiates) and none claim 100% accuracy.

Keep good workplace drug testing records

Follow a simple drug testing procedure and keep good, clear drug testing records.
We have provided a simple template form for you to edit and use.

Download workplace drug testing record template here..

Drug testing kits for UK employers-free samples

If you are a medium to large UK employer and you would like samples of the workplace drug testing kits to try before you buy please contact UK Drug Testing trade team who will be happy to assist you and advise on which drug testing kits will best suit your needs.

Please provide as much information as possible, so we can send you the appropriate free samples and advise us whether you prefer urine or saliva drug testing. If you are unsure which drugs you wish to test for you may find our drug testing in the workplace where to start guide helpful

Alternatively you can ring us during office hours on telephone 01263 731 168 to request workplace drug test kit samples, or to discuss your workplace drug testing requirements with UK Drug Testing customer support team.

Workplace drug testing during Covid-19

Unfortunately drug and alcohol misuse has not got away during the current pandemic, in fact there is growing evidence that the use of widely available, sedating and calming drugs such as Cannabis, alcohol, opioids, new synthetic opioids, gabapentinoids such as pregabalin and gabapentin, and drugs such as benzodiazepines, may have increased during the pandemic, as mental health issues caused by stress, anxiety and isolation have increased.

It is important for employers to still prioritise the health and safety of their employees, and that of the general public, by continuing their drug screening programs where appropriate, and in a safe and hygienic way, to minimise the risks.

It is also important to follow a safe and hygienic drug screening programme, and to follow UK government guidelines for businesses on social distancing, to minimise the risks of transmission of Covid-19 between the tester and the employee being screened for drugs and to maintain a Covid safe workplace while drug screening.

An employee should not be drug tested, if they have a temperature or any symptoms suggestive of Covid -19, and should be sent home and asked to self isolate and contact the NHS Covid-19 support line for guidance.

More information on workplace drug testing procedure during Covid-19

You may also find this recent blog post helpful

Drug testing in the UK workplace-information for employers drug testing employees-page last updated 26/1/22 by Dr M Garside