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Manager who refused drug test should have set better example

Posted by TonyBrownEmploymentSolicitor on May 26, 2016

Is a manager expected to lead by example and submit to a test under his employer’s drug and alcohol testing policy?  Yes, according to a recent case in which an employment tribunal ruled that an employer fairly dismissed a manager who refused to take a drugs test. 

In that case, the Claimant worked as a warehouse operations manager and his duties included enforcing his employer’s drug and alcohol testing policy, on one occasion using the policy to dismiss an employee.

The employer received an anonymous allegation based on an old newspaper article that someone with the same name as the Claimant had been caught taking drugs.

The employer explained to the Claimant that they did not believe that he was the person referred to in the allegation but to demonstrate that the matter had been fully investigated he was asked to take a voluntary drugs test.

The employer’s attitude changed when the Claimant refused to be tested. The test was then made compulsory and after the Claimant maintained his refusal to be tested he was dismissed.

 The Claimant’s claim for unfair dismissal failed. The ET reasoned that there is an onus on managers to lead by example and to set high standards for others to follow. The Claimant was a manager who was expected to implement the policy and had done so in the past.

The ET ruled that the employer’s decision to dismiss the Claimant for refusing to submit to a drugs test was fair.

Comment

In this case, the employment tribunal thought that the employer was justified in dismissing an employee who refused to agree to a drugs test although it was not suggested that the employer had cause to suspect that the employee was in breach of the employer’s drug and alcohol policy.

Justification for testing employees for drugs or alcohol is based on an employer’s statutory duty to ensure a safe working environment for its staff. This duty includes ensuring that employees are not working under the influence of drink or drugs. However, it is probably not appropriate to require all employees to submit to drug or alcohol testing, or to randomly test workers.  Testing is more likely to be justified for staff who drive or operate machinery or where working under the influence of drugs could cause injury to themselves, colleagues or third parties. The random testing of all workers will rarely be justified.

Disclaimer

This article is not a substitute for legal advice. The information may be incorrect or out of date and does not constitute a definitive or complete statement of the law. This article is not intended to constitute advice in any specific situation. You should take legal advice in specific situations and not rely on the information in this article.