Genetic testing in the workplace should be used only in restricted circumstances, the Human Genetics Advisory Commission said last week.

Following a survey of current practice, the commission, which is the main adviser to the UK government, said testing should be allowed only to detect a condition that puts an employee or others at risk in the workplace or to detect genes that could make an employee susceptible to a particular aspect of the workplace.

The commission said, "Genetic testing should never be used to provide information about a condition or a predisposition which might lead to raised levels of absence for sickness."

With one exception, employers in the UK do not use genetic tests when assessing suitability of potential recruits. The exception is the Ministry of Defense, which screens air crew applicants for sickle cell disease and carrier status.

The commission did not find any other employers using genetic testing because no useful tests are available. However, it recommended the government lay down a framework before progress with tests makes it a serious issue.

At present there is no legislation regulating the use of testing in employment. That means an employer may lawfully require a prospective employee to undergo genetic testing, and may discriminate on the basis of those results. But the commission said the principle that no individual should be required to take a genetic test to get a job, maintaining an individual's right not to know his or her genetic makeup, should be enshrined in law.