In a recent case – when handling cash resulted in dismissal for using Cocaine…First Bus received a complaint that a driver in Bristol was “under the influence of cannabis”. The bus driver was subsequently dismissed after testing positive in a saliva test for cocaine. At the resulting Employment Tribunal, (ET), the driver was awarded £84,000 for unfair dismissal.
At the ET, the driver persuaded the tribunal that the positive drugs test resulted from him handling bank notes contaminated with the illegal substance handed over by passengers, and not from his personal use of cocaine.
As part of the driver’s duties when at work he was required to count cash. He ate whilst doing this, which increased the likelihood of the drug being transferred to his mouth. (It is thought that up to 88% of bank notes in the UK carry traces of illegal drugs.) A study by the Forensic Science Service in 2010 found that almost every British bank note in circulation is likely to contain traces of cocaine, with 1 in 20 likely to have very high readings.
In a bid to clear his name, Mr Bailes spent £440 on a more accurate saliva and hair test (obtained via his GP). It proved that he had not had drugs in his system in the last 3 months. However, First Bus refused to reinstate Mr Bailes, despite:
- The GP’s test results being produced on his appeal against dismissal
- His clean disciplinary record over the last 22 years with the company
- The fact he had told the company that he has not smoked for 16 years
The employment tribunal was particularly critical of First Bus’ failure to investigate the explanations put forward by Mr Bailes and the saliva test results. It commented that the employer had been “wholly uninterested in exploring that sensitive but important issue”.
Matthew from Consensus HR states “With the recent introduction by police of roadside drug testing, this is likely to have an increasing impact on businesses. Mr Bailes’ case is an important reminder of the need for employers to carry out a fair and reasonable investigation as part of their Disciplinary Process & the Acas Code of Practice into drugs and alcohol allegations before dismissing or disciplining staff.”
He adds: ”Employers should seek professional medial advice in these circumstances such as the employee’s GP or Occupational Health to avoid assumptions and the incorrect decision – these can have an adverse effect on the employee and the company.”
“Employers should also remember that they are not the medical experts in this area. Whilst they may have their assumptions, facts should be gained from the relevant people and then the appropriate action taken.”
For further information contact: Matthew from Consensus HR on 01462 621243 or via email on firstname.lastname@example.org.