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Tuesday, 7 August, 2001, 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK
Firms consider drink and drugs tests
Man drinking pint
This kind of 'swift half' could soon be a thing of the past
A third of British firms are considering introducing random drink and drug tests at work, according to a new report.

It says the measures are being considered because problems caused by alcohol and drug abuse in the workplace - including accidents, absenteeism and poor performance - are on the increase.

These problems are estimated to be costing British Industry 2.8bn a year.

The survey - carried out for the magazine Personnel Today and the charities Alcohol Concern and DrugScope - questioned more than 300 human resource managers.

Report findings
31% of firms considering starting tests in the next year
74% want lunchtime drinking banned
75% have suffered absenteeism due to alcohol misuse
31% have suffered absenteeism due to drug misuse
Three out of four companies said alcohol abuse by workers had led them to miss time at work.

Perhaps not surprisingly nearly three-quarters of firms questioned said they would like to ban drinking at lunchtime.

Three out of ten companies say workers have missed work because of drug problems.

But the research also found that nearly a quarter of firms have no policy for dealing with drink or drug problems.

Testing time

The survey found that three in ten companies were considering introducing tests during the next year.

Drug testing should only be brought in after full consultation with staff

Roger Howard, Chief Executive DrugScope
About one in ten firms already test their staff for drink or drugs abuse at work, and about the same number use tests when they recruit workers.

Testing is seen as crucial for jobs where safety is critical - such as in transport and manufacturing.

"Drink and drugs are a big problem for employers and many are ready to get tough with staff whose attendance or performance suffer because of their lifestyle" said the editor of Personnel Today, Noel O'Reilly.

Charities urge caution

But the two charities involved in the survey have urged caution to any company thinking of introducing random testing.

"Drug testing should only be brought in after full consultation with staff and within the context of a clear and humane policy on what to do with positive results", said Roger Howard, chief executive of DrugScope.

Alcohol Concern were worried that the survey found a quarter of firms had no formal policy on drink and drug problems.

"We need to get to a situation where organisations feel equipped to deal with people's problems in a sympathetic manner rather than through knee-jerk reactions such as blanket testing or automatic testing" said Mary-Ann McKibben, assistant director of Alcohol Concern.

The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones reports
"14 million working days are being lost each year because of alcohol abuse"

Time, please
Should lunchtime drinking be banned?
See also:

02 Aug 01 | Business
Bad times for beer
17 Jul 01 | UK
Time called on boozing?
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