Letter: Too many people want to play Big Brother

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The Independent Online
From Mr Bernard Ryan

Sir: Your report ("Police chiefs clash over drugs tests", 30 August) of the suggestion that drugs tests be more widely practised at the workplace is profoundly worrying. In a society in which soft drugs are routinely taken, and scarcely objected to, this seems a remarkable development.

One question is, why is this the concern of the police? On what basis does Ian Oliver, for example, claim a "legal and moral responsibility" upon employers to identify drug use? When did employers become special constables? And when did chief constables become management consultants, advising companies on the benefits of such tests?

The wider issue concerns the increased use of drugs tests by employers to which your report referred. The object of these tests is not primarily to improve safety. Rather, they are an attempt by companies to dictate the behaviour of their employees outside working hours. No doubt the taking of drugs can occasionally affect an individual's performance at work. But, then, this is true of most things people do outside company time - like playing sport, or having children, or staying up too late, or social drinking. Should employment contracts also seek to curtail these disruptive habits?


Bernard Ryan

Lecturer in Law

University of Kent


1 September