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UK Ban on Legal Highs – The Workplace Impact

Legal Highs 800 Wide

UK Ban on Legal Highs – The Workplace Impact


Concern has been growing around the impact of new psychoactive substances (NPS) sometime known as legal highs for a number of years, with many of these drugs being more addictive and more potent than the drugs they have been designed to mimic.


The Government’s reaction to this has been to introduce a blanket ban from today, 26th May 2016 with the Psychoactive Substances Bill, which follows similar legislation in Ireland and will introduce a blanket ban on the production, distribution, sale and supply of legal highs - officially known as new psychoactive substances (NPSs).


As a result of the new Bill, we are being asked by our clients if they need to amend their policies and procedures so they are prepared to deal with any issues that may arise from an employee using NPS’s.


In terms of the policy, it is less about the legal status of a drug and more to do with the safety risk from consuming a drug and its impairment on someone at work. For example, alcohol is legal to consume in the UK however companies have always applied rules in their policy to cover instances when someone is impaired at work due to their alcohol consumption. This same approach also works when someone is at work and impaired due to their use of drugs whether legal or illegal.


To support the above, the policy should have clear definitions for drugs, illegal drugs and also misuse and impairment. It should also be clear on what a contravention of the policy would be and what sanctions would be applied.


With any workplace policy, it is about making sure that the terminology used is consistent throughout and clearly defined so that all of your employees understand how the policy affects them within their role. I can't stress how important this is.


What the launch of the new legislation does is provide an excellent opportunity for companies to remind their employees of the policy and its rules and make them aware that NPS's are already covered in the same way as the effects of medication, illegal drugs and alcohol currently is.


For companies who test within their policy, enhanced laboratory testing has been developed to encompass NPS's and the drug panel that can be detected is expanding on a weekly basis, and now covers over 500 new drugs and their compounds that have been banned by the Government over the last few years. This number shows no sign of slowing with figures released earlier this year showing that two new psychoactive drugs were identified in Europe every week last year.


Being at the forefront of innovation and technology, Hampton Knight has been able to test for all known NPS’s since 2011 and have been supporting clients with any cases they have during this time.


It is not yet viable for all samples to be sent to the laboratory for enhanced testing as cost and turnaround times are still to improve and match the current testing programmes.
However, progress is being made every day and with the higher demand for the enhanced testing we believe this option will soon be viable but, in the meantime we can offer the enhanced testing to companies who have a specific need to test for NPS’s.


If you would like further information on the topics discussed in this newsletter, please contact us on 01827 65999 and discuss your requirements with one of our specialists.