Drugs in the workplace

Box 2: Drug-related public nuisance: trends in policy and measures, in EMCDDA 2005 Annual report: selected issues

Public nuisance is an emerging concern within drug policy debate, at both national and European level. Behaviours and activities usually covered by the term ‘drug-related public nuisance’ have long existed in most of the Member States, candidate countries and Norway. Hence, we are looking not at new phenomena, but rather at a new tendency in drug policy, apparent in at least some Member States, to categorise and collate these phenomena under an umbrella concept, and to set the reduction in their occurrence as an objective of national drug strategy.

To what extent is this tendency shared by European countries? Is there a consensual definition for this concept? How are the nature and the extent of the phenomena to be assessed? What are the policies aiming to achieve and what types of interventions are being implemented, regardless of whether or not they are specifically and explicitly designed to reduce drug-related public nuisance? Are any evaluation results already available and are quality standards for intervention established? All these are among the core questions that this selected issue aims to address.

By presenting a timely review of the development of drug-related public nuisance in the policy debate in Europe, the EMCDDA aims to inform policy-makers and the public at large about the nature of the phenomenon and the trends and measures in this area of drug policy.

This selected issue is available in print and on the internet in English only.

Two countries reported moves to legislate on drugs in the workplace. In Finland, the Act on Protection of Privacy in Working Life (759/2004) aims at regulating and enhancing the privacy of the employee in relation to drug testing in working life. The Act states that the employer and personnel must draw up an anti-drug programme for the workplace, including prevention plans and treatment options and listing those jobs that require a drug test certificate. During the recruitment process, an employer can ask only the successful candidate for a drug test certificate. The employer has the right to use the information on the certificate if the job calls for precision, reliability, independent consideration or alertness, and if performance under the influence of, or dependent on, drugs could endanger life or health or result in considerable damage. During employment, the employee must provide a certificate only if there is just cause to suspect that he or she is addicted to or working under the influence of drugs.

In Ireland, the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill was published in June 2004. One section requires that employees ensure that they are not under the influence of any intoxicant(s) while at work to the extent that they would endanger their own safety, health or welfare at work, or that of any other person. It also requires employees, if reasonably required by their employer, to submit to any appropriate, reasonable and proportionate tests by a competent person.

Prevention in specific settings, such as in the workplace, is now highlighted in the new EU action plan. The increased emphasis on targeted prevention may be a counterweight to the general trend towards the reduction in the severity of penalties for drug users, perhaps as a result of concern about the prevalence and frequency of drug use in the EU. However, there are no clear figures on the true size of this perceived phenomenon, and drug testing for anything other than actual influence may raise complicated legal issues of privacy under certain national and international laws. Meanwhile, private investment continues with the aim of improving the accuracy and user-friendliness of the testing kits.