Action on “legal highs” must form part of drive for drug-free workplaces

Pages220-225
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/SHR-09-2015-0076
Publication Date09 Nov 2015
AuthorPhilip Kindred
Action on “legal highs” must form part of
drive for drug-free workplaces
Philip Kindred
Philip Kindred is Technical
Services Manager at
Synergy Health Laboratory
Services, Abergavenny, UK.
Abstract
Purpose The task of keeping Britain’s workplaces free from the risks associated with recreational
drugs has been a long and challenging one for HR professionals and line managers.
Design/methodology/approach Expertise and research carried out by Synergy Health Laboratory
Services.
Findings A no-tolerance approach to drug misuse within the workplace – even one enforced through
random testing – should not be seen as draconian because, after all, the safety of colleagues,
customers and others is as much at stake as the safety of the individual concerned or indeed the
reputation of the company.
Originality/value With properly drafted policies and robust processes, employers can safeguard
themselves and their employees straight away from the risks posed by illicit substances.
Keywords Training, Human resource management, Productivity
Paper type Viewpoint
The task of keeping Britain’s workplaces free from the risks associated with
recreational drugs has been a long and challenging one for HR professionals and
line managers.
It was already high on the agenda 15 years ago when I was involved in the steering group
that set UK Workplace Drug Testing Guidelines, and recent statistics from multiple sources
suggest that, if anything, the problem of illegal drugs facing employers has continued to
grow.
And the newly elected Government’s announcement this summer that it plans to outlaw
Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) or “legal highs” has underlined a further and
potentially greater risk to the workplace from narcotic substances (Home Office, 2015).
The proposed blanket ban on all NPS is due to Government frustration with the producers’
practice of constantly modifying their chemical composition to stay one step ahead of the
law and, in effect, keep their products legal. It is estimated that more than 260 such drugs
have entered the marketplace over recent years and, as things stand, many are still readily
available within the law (Winstock, 2015).
Despite the intention to make all NPS illegal, it is not expected that the proposed new law
will hit the statute books anytime soon, as many experts have raised issues with the Bill as
currently drafted, so we can expect it to be a long and arduous process (Brooks-Pollock,
2015;Travis, 2015;Birrell, 2015;Dunt, 2015;Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs,
2015).
However, that does not mean employers need to sit on their hands and just wait for the
verdict. With properly drafted policies and robust processes, they can safeguard
themselves and their employees straight away from the risks posed by these substances.
PAGE 220 STRATEGIC HR REVIEW VOL. 14 NO. 6 2015, pp. 220-225, © Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1475-4398 DOI 10.1108/SHR-09-2015-0076

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