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Workplaces may have to drug test staff

The Tory proposal would shame firms that hire a lot of drug users, but not fire or prosecute any individual who failed the test.

The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has said she’d like to force large companies to regularly drug test their staff as a way to crack down on county lines - networks of drug dealers that often employ teenagers or other vulnerable people to transport illegal substances around the country. She’s taken the idea from the Tory candidate for the Mayor of London, Shaun Bailey, who wants to deploy it in the capital if he gets elected next May. The idea behind targeting workplaces is apparently to “shine a light” on how prevalent drug taking is in the UK, particularly among white-collar, middle-class people.

It’s not clear what would happen to workers who failed these drug tests. The results are supposed to be anonymous, suggesting that no criminal charges will be sought. Instead the companies will be ranked based on their overall ‘fail’ percentages. Shaun Bailey says he doesn’t want to get anyone “fired or shamed” but it isn’t clear how else companies would improve their list position, or indeed whether workplaces would be willing to turn a blind eye if their attention was brought to illegal activity being conducted by their employees.

Critics of the scheme are asking why companies should invest time and money running a scheme that provides no benefit to them but may damper their employees’ productivity and morale. Some are suggesting that the fact illegal drugs are still so popular shows criminalisation isn’t working, and a far better way to reduce the power of crime networks is to take the drug trade out of their hands by legalising it.

Read our explainer on: drugs and the economy

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