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How will the drug driving bill affect employers, contractors and staff?

The Drug Driving (England and Wales) Regulations 2014 came into force on 2nd March 2015 and if you are an Employer whose staff drive company vehicles then you will be affected. If you are a contractor or employee who drives work vehicles this could affect you too. (Applies to England and Wales only).

What does the Act include?

Section 4 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 made it an offence to drive a motor vehicle while being unfit to do so because of drug consumption. The new regulations detail the drugs that are controlled for the purposes of this offence, and set out the prescribed limit of each drug that is allowed in each person – if the limit is exceeded it will be an offence (irrespective of the effect on a person’s ability to drive).

The new offence is snappily called “driving or being in charge of a motor vehicle with concentration of specified controlled drug above specified limit”.

The regulations contain limits on legal and illegal drugs, that will be detected by new and more accurate road side drug saliva testing kits.

The controlled drugs are:

Illegal Drugs – zero tolerance approachThreshold limit in blood (in microgrammes per litre of blood)
Lysergic acid diethyladmie (LSD)1
Medicinal Drugs (risk based approach)Threshold limit in blood (in microgrammes per litre of blood)
Morphine or Opiate or Opoid- based drugs, e.g. codeine, tramadol of fentanyl80

The Government advise that if you are taking prescription medicine you should continue taking them as advised by your doctor and keep evidence of your prescription medicine with you while driving (a letter from your GP would suffice).

The new law gives the police powers to test and arrest drivers suspected of driving after taking certain controlled drugs in excess of specified levels.

The regulations now allow the police to test for traces of drugs in saliva at the road-side, as well as undertaking ‘field impairment’ tests.

The regulations include an offence for failure to provide a specimen. However, it is a defence (called the ‘medical defence’) if a driver can show that the drugs were taken in accordance with directions given by the person from who the drug was prescribed or supplied.

It is illegal to drive with legal drugs in your body if it is impairing your driving. It is also an offence to have over the specified limits of the controlled drugs in your body if you haven’t been prescribed them.

If you are convicted of drug-driving you can receive a minimum 1 year driving ban, an unlimited fine and/or up to 6 months in prison and/or a criminal record. Your driving licence will also show if you are convicted for drug driving, which will last for 11 years.

What does this mean for Employers?

As it is thought likely that the amount of road-side drug testing will increase, with the new regulations coming into force, it may become more likely that one of your employees/contractors will be caught with controlled drugs in their system (whether legal or illegal).

So if you require your staff to drive on company business (including driving to meetings in a company car) then you need to consider:

  • What any absence of staff due to offences under these regulations could mean for you (or if they receive at least a one year driving ban)?

  • It could also leave the employer open to vicarious liability prosecution. Company vehicles are considered to be a ‘place of work’ so employers must ensure the health and safety of its employees while driving as well as ensuring that others are not put at risk by their employee’s work-related driving activities. If an employee is caught with controlled drugs in their system while driving on company business this could leave the employer open to prosecution

  • Company car insurance premiums are also likely to rise if staff are prosecuted

  • The HSE (with other bodies) have produced ‘Drug Misuse at Work’ guidance here – which gives details of how to spot the signs of drug misuse at work and how to deal with it

  • Employers may want to update their alcohol/substance/drug misuse policy and some employers may want to introduce a drug testing policy

  • All employers will need to update their driving policies and/or health and safety policies and Disciplinary Policies, to ensure that staff are aware of the new laws.

  • Employers may want to have systems in place for drivers to report to the employer when a specified legal drug is prescribed to them (bearing in mind data protection laws) and ensure the employee carries their relevant prescription information with them when driving

If you are an Employer and need ongoing professional help with any staff/freelance issues then talk to Lesley at The HR Kiosk – a Human Resources Consultancy for small businesses – our fees are low to reflect the pressures on small businesses and you can hire us for as much time as you need.

Please note that the advice given on this website and by our Advisors is guidance only and cannot be taken as an authoritative or current interpretation of the law. It can also not be seen as specific advice for individual cases. Please also note that there are differences in legislation in Northern Ireland.

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