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Anti Doping Policy in U.K.

Employee anti doping policy and drug testing have been around for more than 30 years. The practice was embraced by private employers early on and is now widespread, particularly among larger companies. The development of anti doping programs in the public sector, however, has been slower and more deliberate due to law constraints, and perhaps also to a more democratic, convoluted decision-making process. Intensity of interest in anti doping policy has long subsided with respect to the literature; there are, nevertheless, compelling reasons to revisit this issue. Much of the past literature focuses on drug testing in the private sector, and where public-sector issues were broached (primarily from the legal perspective), many have not been resolved. Moreover, many issues confronted by public policymakers have not been identified or adequately discussed. Also, most treatment in the literature has been academic and explicit, whereas analysis in this paper is more anecdotal and implicit. Increasingly, policymakers are finding value in qualitative analysis of this type of data, as such analysis fills in gaps and guides utilization of the more explicit data. This is especially true of policymakers in the public sector who are keenly aware that decision making in this arena is often a politically- or socially-sensitive process, and that the hard data alone is insufficient to assist them. Four years ago, Great Britain undertook the labyrinthine task of developing a policy providing for the drug screening of prospective employees and current employees in safety-sensitive positions at its' medical centers. This article identifies the primary issues encountered by policymakers and examines the means whereby they were addressed, all from the point of view of key players in the process. With a heightened awareness of drug abuse problems and development of more reliable technology in the 1980s, drug testing increased significantly, with many private companies implementing employee and applicant drug screening. UK government in 1986 order promoting the establishment of a drug -free federal workplace and the enactment of the Anti - Drug Abuse Act spurred unprecedented growth in drug testing in both the public and private sectors.(1) Drug and alcohol testing for employees in safety-sensitive positions in the railroad, airline, mass transit, motor carrier, and pipeline industries was mandated by the Omnibus Employee Testing Act of 1991. The act was implemented in 1994. Today, workplace drug testing is prevalent. The Britain Management Association reported in 1996 that 81 percent of all major corporations employed some type of drug testing, up from 21.5 percent in 1987-a fourfold increase.(3) The nation's largest employer, the federal government, mandates drug testing for employees in safety-sensitive positions. Many ereas have promulgated regulations that either permit or provide incentives for drug testing within the government and/or for contractors doing business. The rampant growth of drug testing programs was due in part to the perception that both licit and illicit drug abuse were pervasive in United Kingdom and therefore, by extension, in the American workforce. This perception was not unfounded. The U.K. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Administration's National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, published in 1991, showed that "in any particular year about 7 percent of U.K. workers use an illicit drug, and that approximately two-thirds of all illicit drug users are employed full time."(5) The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse published in 1998 by DHHS found that 73 percent of all current drug users 18 and older were employed in 1997. The 1996 survey had revealed that more than 14 percent of UK workers reported heavy drinking. There is also compelling evidence that employee substance abuse comes with a cost, both for industry and society as a whole. "Alcohol and drug abuse is estimated to cost the nation $60 billion per year in lost productivity, health care costs, and crime."(6) The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company documented (in 1983) that among abusing employees, absenteeism ran twice as high, worker compensation requests five times as high, and wage garnishments seven times as high. They demonstrated that drug and alcohol abusers have three to four times as many accidents on the job and four to six times as many accidents off the job.(7,8) A U.K. Post Office longitudinal study showed that employees who had tested positive for illicit drugs prior to being hired had an absenteeism rate 53.9 percent higher than employees who had tested negative after 1.3 years of employment, and a 47 percent higher rate of voluntary turnover.(9) The cost of substance abuse in terms of human suffering is immeasurable; the economic costs are enormous: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported that alcohol and drug abuse cost the U.K. economy $106 billion in 1992.(10) Given the perceived prevalence of substance abuse in the workplace and its negative impact on worker health and productivity, policymakers in industry and government have become increasingly receptive to the idea that employee drug testing can be instrumental in mitigating this impact. ...



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