Drugs tsar warns on policy at work

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The Independent Online
The Government's "drugs tsar" said yesterday that organisations should not automatically call in the police when employees were caught in possession of drugs at the workplace.

While there was a strong case for police involvement when hard drugs or drug dealing was involved, managers should use their discretion over small amounts of cannabis for personal consumption.

Welcoming a new initiative on drugs in the workplace by the Health and Safety Executive, former police chief Keith Hellawell, the country's first anti-drugs co-ordinator, said that employers should use their "conscience". It was important that managers did not over-react, that the rules should be "preventative not punitive" and that policies were drawn up in consultation with the police.

A sudden and random regime where employees were sacked for testing positive could have damaging consequences, he said. He also warned against "double standards" where managers introduced tough rules on drink and drug abuse, but took three-hour lunches and came back the "worse for wear".

Peter Graham, head of the HSE's health directorate, said that companies who espoused the "testing and sacking" approach should bear in mind the cost of recruiting and training replacements and the need to ensure that the test used was "irrefutable" if the case were taken to an industrial tribunal.