Frequently asked questionsWorkplace testing questions you may have
Frequently asked questions
Is drug and alcohol testing an invasion of privacy?
No, if the drug and alcohol testing programme is carried out fairly and within the agreed policy guidelines, it is not an invasion of an employee’s privacy.
In fact, it is widely encouraged by government bodies and trade unions in order to protect the welfare of employees and the safety of others.
Is all the data confidential?
Yes, the data obtained are kept confidential at all times. Employers and AlphaBiolabs keep the test results confidential and records cannot be released without the consent of the employee.
In addition, we follow UK data protection laws and after a period of time all client data are destroyed securely.
What is chain of custody?
Chain of custody is a monitoring process to prevent tampering of an employee’s sample or test results. Chain of custody begins with collection of the sample, and continues right through the final reporting of test results to employers.
Sealing of sample containers, transport and control of samples, receipt of samples by the laboratory and supervision of laboratory tests remain under strict discipline throughout the chain of custody.
It is designed to link, beyond doubt, the sample and result to the employee.
What drugs are tested for?
A comprehensive list of drugs can be tested for and this can be tailored to the needs of the company, running as many as are deemed necessary.
A standard workplace panel will include:
What makes a test positive?
We use cut-off limits in the laboratory for drug testing. A positive result is a concentration greater than the cut-off limit for that particular substance.
A positive result means that the drug has been used but will not indicate frequency of use or when it was used last.
What are cut-off levels?
Cut-off levels refer to the minimum concentration of drug in a sample, which can be deemed positive.
At AlphaBiolabs, we follow the guidelines and cut-off values set out by the European Workplace Drug Testing Society.
Is drug testing reliable?
AlphaBiolabs has been carrying out DNA, drug and alcohol testing for the legal profession for many years.
All our legal tests follow a strict chain of custody and are legally admissible in UK courts.
What happens when the employee is tested?
At the collection site, the donor gives the sample and this is either tested on-site or the collector will seal the sample in a tamper-evident bag, complete the necessary documentation, and prepare the specimen for transport to the laboratory
Will the employee be required to give a urine sample in the presence of a collector?
No, the urine void is not witnessed by the collection officer. The employee provides a sample in a secure toilet facility which has been predetermined and prepared by the trained sample collector.
What if an employee declines to be tested?
This should be addressed in your drug and alcohol testing policy. Some companies will commence disciplinary procedures but this varies according to individual policies.
Some policies outline that if an employee declines a drug or alcohol test, their test result will be an automatic fail.
What facilities should be provided for collecting urine samples?
The collection site should have a private room, a toilet and a sink; and for the duration of the urine collection, access to the area should be restricted.
What if an employee is unable to give a urine sample?
In this case, the employee would be given fluids so they should be able to provide a sample within a few hours. Only a small amount of urine is required (about 30 ml).
If they are still unable to do so, this information would be passed on.
An alternative test may be offered (e.g., oral fluid), and if this sample is refused then the employee will be marked as ‘unwilling’ to give a sample as opposed to ‘unable’. Your workplace drug and alcohol testing policy should contain procedures to follow in this instance.
Is introducing workplace drug and alcohol testing expensive?
Introducing a drug and alcohol testing policy in the workplace is not expensive and the company will actually gain greater productivity, less accidents and subsequent litigation.
How long can a drug be detected in urine?
This depends on various factors including the drug being tested for, the amount of drug taken and the individual’s metabolic rate. In the case of cannabis, the detection window can be up to several weeks.
How long can a drug be detected in oral fluid?
The detection window is generally shorter than that of urine and will depend on the person’s metabolism, and the type and amount of drug taken. Usually oral fluid testing will show any drug use in the previous few days.
Is there any preparation for the test?
No, the employee should continue eating and drinking normally and keep taking any prescribed medication. Prescription medicine will not interfere with the tests as long as it has been declared to the sample collector.
Can an employee challenge the results?
Yes, an employee has the right to challenge a positive result and ask for a retest.
They will not be permitted to give another sample but the retest will be carried out on the secondary portion of the original sample, which the laboratory still holds.
Depending on your company policy, the employee may have to cover the cost of the retest.
What time period does hair testing cover?
For head hair, a standard window of detection is 90 days. However, longer and shorter timeframes are possible. Body hair samples are noted as an approximately 12-month timeframe.
How soon after use can a drug be detected in hair?
It takes approximately 7–10 days from the time of drug use for the affected hair to grow above the scalp.
Body hair growth rates are generally slower and cannot be used to determine a specific timeframe of drug use.
Can tests be run on people with little or no hair?
Hair can be collected from several head locations and combined to obtain the required amount of hair. In addition, body hair may be used as a substitute to head hair. In the rare case where no hair is collectible, oral fluid or urine testing may be used.
How fast does head hair grow?
Studies indicate that head hair grows on average approximately 1 cm per month.