It is fundamental that health, safety and wellbeing considerations form the core of the drug and alcohol Policy. The application of the policy should be based on due consideration of these factors. It is also important to note such a policy does not necessarily have to include testing; this should be determined by your business needs.

Legal duties to protect employees and others are placed on employers under both the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and Health and Safety at Work Act 1974; this includes a ‘duty of care’. Further duties are required by the Transport and Works Act 1992, Equality Act 2010, Human Rights Act 1998 and Data Protection Act 1998. Under the Data Protection Act 1998 responsibilities are placed on organisations to handle and process personal information in a fair and proper way; this is particularly pertinent where drug and alcohol testing is part of the policy.

Drug misuse is a common problem in society today. The National Statistics Drug Misuse annual (2017) report states that in 2015/16, for England and Wales around 1 in 12 adults aged 16 to 59 (representing 8.4% of the population, equating to 2,7 million people) had taken an illicit drug (see ‘signposting’ section for link to report). The number of deaths from drug misuse in England and Wales are now reported to be at their highest level since comparable records began in 1993.

A positive leadership culture and managing all aspects of its activities to provide a high level of protection is an integral part of our commitment to the chemical industries Responsible Care principles. The emphasis of your Policy needs to be on helping and supporting individuals through health leadership from the top down allowing confidential self-referral as needed. It should be designed to ensure problems are dealt with effectively, and consistently and early on in the process.

The Policy should take into account relevant legislation, a review of available guidance, and also testing protocols (if required). In terms of its framing, we recommend to:

  • Do what’s right for your business, as each business environment is different;
  • Take time in planning and implementing the policy making sure to involve employees and trade union safety representatives;
  • Make sure it includes an education programme for both line managers and individuals that covers the signs to look for, dealing with workers who seek help and provides direction on where expert advice and help may be obtained;
  • Consider if there should be a medical-amnesty period before the go-live date, so that individuals can come forward for support; and
  • Give clear guidance on range of potential sanctions for any breaches of your policy.

Useful checklists of items to consider when drawing up a policy on alcohol and drug misuse are provided by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS; see ‘signposting’ section for web link). Advice is also provided on HSE’s website (again see ‘signposting’ section).

How do I go about developing a policy or checking on what my company/organisation does?

The visual schematic provided in these high-level guidelines, which uses the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) ‘Plan Do Check Act’ model in HSG 65 as its basis, provides tips for consideration when developing/improving your alcohol and drug policy. Signposting to key information sources is also provided below. Remember education of the dangers and raising awareness are important aspects to incorporate into your drug and alcohol policy procedures.

If you decide testing (pre-employment and/or random and/or just cause) of employees is in the company’s best interest to implement then good practice recommendations on justification of testing, who and when to test and managing of the information obtained can be found in the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) Employment Practices Data Protection Code (see section on information from drug and alcohol testing). Any 3rd party test provider will also be a good resource for helping develop a policy. 

Guidelines for developing and implementing drug and alcohol policies cover

CIA Drug & Alcohol Policies

The guide, part of CIA’s workplace health and wellbeing work under the industry’s Responsible Care initiative, considers the legal basis, key tips, aspects for consideration and case studies for developing and implementing policies. The emphasis is very much on helping and supporting individuals through health leadership from the top down allowing confidential self-referral as needed