What should you do if one of your employees fails a drugs test?

by Redmans on October 11, 2012

  • SumoMe

If one of your employees fails a drug test at work then this is normally cause for concern. Depending on the seriousness of the situation, the employee’s past history at work, and the effect that the failure has on their ability to do their job it may result in you having to dismiss the employee. However, dismissal is not a step to be taken unreasonably or lightly and you must undertake reasonable investigations prior to making a decision to suspend or dismiss the employee concerned. In this post we’ll look at three potential reactions an employer may have if they find that one of their employees has failed a drugs test:

  1. Investigation
  2. Suspension
  3. Dismissal


If an employee fails a drugs test at work then the first thing you’ll want to do is investigate the matter (as well as considering whether to suspend the employee, dealt with below). You should ensure, if possible, that an impartial third party person with adequate training is instructed to carry out the investigation and that the investigation is undertaken in a fair and appropriately rapid manner. Long delays in commencing and finishing investigations may suggest elements of unfairness in the process. You should inform the employee that they are being investigated and then make a decision as to whether you are going to suspend the employee,


When considering suspending the employee you must undertake a reasonable consideration of whether the allegations against the employee warrant a suspension. It is crucial that you do this – a “knee jerk” reaction in suspending the employee may result in a finding of unfair dismissal if the employee takes their case to the Employment Tribunal as a result. Make sure you have all the facts before you and make a decision to suspend the employee that takes account of the following (among other things):

  1. The nature of the offence
  2. The severity of the offence
  3. The gravity of a suspension
  4. The effect of a suspension on the employee and their career

If you believe that the allegations warrant a suspension after consideration then you should inform the employee that they’re being suspended, why they’re being suspended, how long the suspension is likely to be for, and whether they will be paid whilst suspended. You should also recommend that they obtain independent employment law advice on their situation.


If you believe that, after investigation, the allegations warrant a disciplinary hearing then you should inform the employee of this promptly and carry out a prompt, fair and thorough disciplinary process. The employee should be given the opportunity to respond to the allegations and the disciplinary hearing should be undertaken by a fair, impartial and appropriately senior employee. When making a decision whether to dismiss or not, the following should be taken into consideration (among other things):

  1. The nature of the allegations
  2. The severity of the allegations
  3. The employee’s position at work
  4. Whether the allegations affects the employees ability to do their job
  5. Whether the allegations have an effect upon clients or customers of the employer

Redmans are London employment lawyers.


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