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Companies ‘jumping the gun’ on misuse allegations

Nearly 40% of Irish companies have disciplined or dismissed an employee for substance misuse without an appropriate policy or testing procedure in place, a diagnostics company said.

Dr Mark Piper, toxicology manager at Randox Laboratories in Antrim, which carried out the survey, said that if an employer dismisses an employee for substance abuse without following correct procedures. they could find themselves in trouble.

He said: “Failure to implement proper policy heightens the risk that an employee might be unfairly accused of misuse, leaving companies vulnerable to legal proceedings.”

Dr Piper said a comprehensive drugs policy ought to have a clear objective, explain what is considered to be drug misuse, outline the testing process and the disciplinary action that can result from a positive test.

It should also provide details of the support available to those who abuse drugs, he said.

“It is crucial that organisations — particularly those in safety critical industries — have in place robust substance misuse policies which leave employees in no doubt as to what is, and what is not, acceptable behaviour.

“Such policies must ensure employees are treated fairly and that any disciplinary decisions are based on solid facts.”

Dr Piper said regular drug and alcohol screening is one component of an appropriate policy and would enable employment decisions to be based on firm scientific evidence.

“The implementation of routine and random testing produces reliable results, discourages misuse, and ultimately provides a safer workplace, which of course is of benefit to employers, employees and customers alike,” he added.