Employee drug use can affect job performance and risk dismissal, Jane Hobson, employment law specialist at solicitors Ollerenshaw, has warned.
Last month saw Coronation Street star Craig Charles hit the headlines for alleged use of cocaine. The allegations led to his suspension from both the soap and his BBC 6 music show pending further investigation into the circumstances.
Then this week it was revealed that Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Chris Cornes will have to serve a six month ban from the game after a random drugs test found traces of cocaine.
Ms Hobson said: "Many employees would happily admit to having resorted to a strong cup of coffee to help keep them awake and alert through long working hours. However what else might employees be using to get them through the day?
"Substance abuse can have an adverse effect on an employer's business, manifesting itself, for instance, in lower productivity, increased absenteeism, loss of customers and reduced staff morale.
"Staff may argue that what they do in their own time including taking drugs should be their own business and not give grounds for their employers to dismiss them. Not necessarily.
"This situation is not the preserve of the show business and sports fraternity.
"Many employers are totally ignorant of any drug use amongst their employees and do little or nothing to address this issue. Alcohol or drugs affect employees' performance, behaviour and attendance at work. Drug addiction like alcoholism should in theory be treated as an illness but employment tribunals have almost invariably regarded drug related dismissals as a misconduct issue.
"This may be because the use of controlled drugs is a criminal offence. Furthermore employers themselves commit a criminal offence if they know that illegal drugs are being used on their premises."
She went on: "Employees should remember that how they behave outside the workplace including drug use can also have an impact on their job and could lead to action by t he employer including dismissal.
"Many employees might argue that this in some way infringes their human rights but if there is a link with the employment relationship, for example where behaviour affects health and safety, or significantly undermines the employer's confidence in the employee or erodes the employer's reputation then action will be wholly legitimate.
"In the United States many employers insist on regularly testing their employees for both drugs and alcohol.
"However in this country the extent to which employers have the right to require employees to undertake random drug testing is more limited. Some employers in certain sectors and job roles, for example train drivers and pilots, reserve the contractual right to test their staff randomly in contracts of employment.
" If an employee has accepted this and refuses a test then they will be in breach of contract. In the absence of a contractual term allowing testing, the employer will need to have legitimate safety conc erns for requiring an employee to be tested.
"As regards police involvement, there is no obligation on an employer to report an employee's criminal conduct to police. Much often depends on the gravity and scale of the alleged offence and importantly the potential impact on the employer's business. In order to avoid any potential claim of constructive dismissal an employer should carry out some degree of investigation itself, before referring any matter to the police in case the suspicions later prove to be groundless."