A health and safety organisation has given its support to employers who conduct "responsible" drink and drug tests on workers.
The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) said UK bosses have a responsibility to look after staff, but they must also protect the public from the drink or drug-related failings of their employees.
And, in the Republic of Ireland, there is a specific legal duty on workers not to endanger themselves or others by being 'intoxicated' on the job, and to co-operate with reasonable testing regimes.
Ray Hurst, IOSH president-elect, said: "Employers and workers can potentially benefit from having 'alcohol and drugs' policies in place and access to support.
"Workplace drink and drug testing has been a controversial subject in some quarters, but we believe it can be a reasonable way forward, particularly where safety-critical activities are involved or there's evidence of possible abuse.
"We'd add that employers need to act responsibly and with sensitivity about this, and to have employee consent."
The Health and Safety Executive estimates that alcohol alone causes 3% to 5% of all absences from work - which equals up to 14 million lost working days each year.
Mr Hurst added: "We would urge any employers who believe their organisations may have drink or drug problems to encourage workers to come forward for confidential help and support."
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"I am appalled at yet another attempt to infringe our liberties. If someone is suspected of being under the influence of drink or drugs, then that individual should be disciplined/counselled as appropriate. It is a management issue. Why should everyone else be subjected to such an intrusive process just to be at work?" – Name and address supplied