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 

We have compiled these guidelines and information below, to help you implement and operate fair and effective workplace drug testing and drug screening.

Our most popular workplace drug testing kits are here

If you need any help or advice on drug screening in the UK, we're here to help you

If you are a UK company, and require any help or assistance with workplace drug testing, do not hesitate to contact our customer support team. Chat, telephone and email support is available Monday to Friday 8.30am-5pm.

Need help choosing a workplace drug test that suits your needs-our drug testing quiz may help you

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. 

Is workplace drug testing legal in UK?

Workplace drug testing in the United Kingdom is legal, but there are specific rules and regulations that UK employers must follow to ensure they are conducting the drug screening in a lawful and fair manner. An employer must always obtain informed written consent from each individual employee, prior to drug testing them.

Drugs and alcohol testing at work-what businesses drug test?

Drug and alcohol 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.

What is the most common type of drug test used in the workplace?

The most common drug test used in the workplace is the urine drug test. Urine drug testing is widely used because it is relatively non-invasive, cost-effective, and can detect a broad range of drugs and their metabolites. This type of drug test is often used for pre-employment screening, post-accident testing, random testing, and for cause testing when there is reasonable suspicion that an employee may be using drugs.

What to do if the employee refuses to do a test?

  • In the UK an employee can refuse a voluntary request to produce a sample for drug and alcohol screening, even where the employment contract includes pre-agreed terms for drug and alcohol testing as part of their terms and conditions of employment.
  • It is normal practice for employers to manage such refusals in the same way they would action a non-negative on-site test. The justification for this is given in the following paragraph. 

All employers have a duty of care to ensure a drug and alcohol-free, safe working environment.

  • Requests for drug and alcohol testing at work must be seen as fair and reasonable.
  • Random drug and alcohol testing should be just that.
  • Targeted drug and alcohol tests must be justifiable.
  • Keep good records.
  • Confirm all non-negative, or refused, screening test results by moving immediately to a confirmation test using an accredited laboratory method which will stand tribunal examination. All refusals should be witnessed, documented and line management advised.

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. By discussing the issue, the concerns, and responsibilities of both employer and employee become apparent, in itself this can be beneficial, reducing risky behaviours.

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 at work?

Yes without consent an employer may not legally perform a drug test at work on an employee in the UK. It is important to obtain informed written consent from the employee before every work 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 that you have a company drug and alcohol policy, and that you have a contract clause that covers the drug and alcohol policy of the company as a part of the basic employment contract for all staff, covering random workplace drug and alcohol testing also known as a D&A test, with a clear statement of the company drug and alcohol policy, making it clear that attending the workplace or being at work 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 at work, and have agreed that the use of drugs in the workplace, or being under the influence of drugs including alcohol in the workplace, is not acceptable behaviour, and may be a dismissable 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.

Do all driving jobs drug test in the UK?

Many driving jobs within the UK, including delivery driver jobs, now require either a pre-employment drug test and regular drug and alcohol testing may be part of the contract of employment, and the companies drug and alcohol policy.

HGV and bus drivers must undergo routine drug and alcohol testing as a crucial component of their yearly medical evaluation. We are here to assist you with your workplace drug testing needs.

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.
  • Ketamine abuse has increased significantly in recent years so you may also wish to go for a drug test that detects ketamine in safety critical industries.

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.

What type of drug test do employers use in the UK?

Most UK employers will use either a urine drug test or a saliva drug test, as these two methods of workplace drug testing, are very cost effective and easy drug tests to perform, in a workplace setting. Some UK employers will use a combination of saliva and urine drug testing.

Hair drug testing is rarely used in a workplace drug test, as it is much more expensive. The same applies to blood drug testing. Fingerprint drug testing is less frequently used by employers in the UK for workplace drug testing than urine or saliva drug tests, as it is more costly than urine or saliva drug testing and the range of drugs that can be detected are very limited currently.

Many 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 that the accuracy of instant drug tests will range between 97-99%, compared to GC/MS. Rapid drug tests will not differentiate between metabolite, legally prescribed and consumed drugs, especially opiates, and no brand of drug test claims 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- samples

If you are a medium to large UK employer and you would like samples of the workplace drug testing kits 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 recommendations 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 or our find a drug test quiz.

Alternatively you can ring us during office hours on telephone 01263 731 168 to place an order for workplace drug test kit samples, or to discuss your workplace drug testing requirements with UK Drug Testing customer support team. Our team are also now available via chat during office hours. 

Workplace drug testing during Covid-19

Unfortunately drug and alcohol misuse has not gone away during the 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.

There is growing evidence to suggest increases in the rates of drug and alcohol misuse over the last couple of years, and with the changes in working practices, particularly distant working, there is concern that much of this may be going under the radar of employers.

It is important for employers to still prioritise the health and safety of their employees, and that of the general public, by continuing their workplace 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 follow the current Covid-19 guidelines regarding self isolation, or contact the NHS Covid-19 support line for guidance.

More information on workplace drug testing procedure during Covid-19

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Drug testing in the UK workplace-information for employers drug testing employees-page last updated 23/4/24 by Dr M Garside

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