I think my worker is on drugs – can I test them?

With Australia Day around the corner, the chance of substance use among employees may be higher. But can you ask your employee to take a drug and alcohol test?

Substance abuse is cause for concern in a workplace, with potential deadly implications for the health and safety of your business. 

CCIWA Employee Relations Advice Centre Senior Employee Relations Adviser Andjelika Cabassi discusses when, and when you can’t, ask for the staff member to take a test. 

When you have suspicions

If you suspect your worker is on drugs, you need to determine whether you can conduct a drug and alcohol test, and you’ll need a policy enacted beforehand.

Cabassi explains that such testing involves an intrusion into the privacy of workers, but the law has established in some cases an intrusion of this nature is necessary. 

“Testing for drug and alcohol use in Australian workplaces is not uncommon. And for some industries, it is required. 

“Before a business even considers testing employees, it is important a drug and alcohol policy is implemented in the workplace. 

“Once implemented, a drug and alcohol policy should stipulate how and when testing can be conducted.” 

For more information on Drug & Alcohol policies, call CCIWA’s Employee Relations Advice Centre on 9365 7660. 

Types of tests 

The most common form of drug testing in the workplace are random and for cause testing. 

For cause testing is used where an employee presents for work showing signs associated with being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

If this is the case, you should attempt to raise any concerns regarding their behaviour, highlighting safety concerns. 

If your policy allows it, and you have reasonable grounds to believe your worker is under the influence, you may direct your worker to take a test. 

After the test 

As an employer, you may be able to suspend the employee while waiting for the test results, especially if there is a risk to the health and safety of their colleagues.

Once the results are released, you should give the employee an opportunity to respond, before taking any further action. 

A 2010 decision by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission noted that employees who return a positive drug and alcohol test result should be treated in the same way as employees with other health problems. 

“This means moving away from disciplinary outcomes and shifting towards a focus on rehabilitation and support,” Cabassi adds. 

“That said, there is always a need to consider the work, health and safety implications of employees attending work when impaired and, in many decisions, the relevant commission or tribunal will take this into account when considering the employer’s response to positive test results.” 

For advice, call CCIWA’s Employee Relations Advice Centre on 9365 7660.

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