With the rise in popularity of substances which have effects similar to illegal drugs but which are not illegal themselves, employers should consider legal highs when drafting their alcohol and substance policies.
This is an emerging area of law as many legal highs are actually illegal under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and there is currently legislation going through Parliament to ban the supply of these type of drugs. The Psychoactive Substances Bill is being brought into enforce a blanket ban on all mind altering (psychoactive) substances and introduces a list of exemptions for those in everyday use, such as alcohol, coffee and medicines which are regulated elsewhere, as well as drugs already banned under Misuse of Drugs Act.
Employers’ alcohol and substance policies don’t have to be limited to what is and isn’t allowed in the law. The use of alcohol is not illegal, yet most companies will have a ban or limit on alcohol consumption during working hours. Employers should consider ensuring that legal highs are included in the policy. They should focus on the effects of any substance on employees and their ability to work rather than the substance themselves and employers are also well advised to include prescription medications as these can also impact behaviours.
Drug testing for these substances is also more challenging as compounds can regularly change so employers should not rely on testing alone and should educate staff on the signs of drug use and what to be aware of.
27th January 2016