The TUC’s senior policy officer warned today that mandatory drug testing could actually lead to more dangerous workplaces.
Speaking to talkRADIO’s Matthew Wright, Hugh Robertson said drug testing was an ineffective way to prevent employees working while under the influence.
The warning comes after a North Yorkshire agriculture worker successfully challenged his dismissal on Friday when it was found he failed the drug test due to eating a poppy-seeded loaf from Aldi.
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Mr Robertson said: “The real problem we have got is because most drugs are in the system for maximum two or three days, but Cannabis is in the body for 28 days, there is a lot of evidence that people are moving away from taking cannabis to harder drugs.
“This is crazy. We are finding that people are actually using harder drugs to avoid failing drug tests.”
Mr Robertson said punitive measures by employers, who often dismiss employees without enquiring further into the test results, meant that fewer workers were willing to come forward and speak openly with employers about potential drug problems.
He added: “Drug testing must be part of a wider policy which encourages people to tell their employers if they have a drug problem so they can get help.”
'Breach of Human Rights Act'
Mr Robertson also questioned whether workplace drug tests were in fact a breach of employees’ privacy.
He said: “It is almost certainly a breach of the Human Rights Act because we all have a right to privacy and our private lives. Why is it relevant to your employer if you have been taking drugs legally in Amsterdam, for example?”
Although not as widespread as in the United States, workplace drug testing is on the rise in the UK, where Mr Robertson said the legality of mandatory drug tests was unclear.
He added: "Drug testing really needs control. We need proper regulations about when it can and can’t be done.”