In this COVID-age, there is a lot of news and questions floating around about what workplaces can and can’t do, particularly around whether an employer can make it mandatory to get a vaccine. Well here’s another question that needs answering – although it doesn’t have anything to do with COVID. Can an employer force employees to undertake drug testing?
No such thing as mandatory workplace drug testing
First of all, it’s worth clearing up that an employer can never force an employee to undertake drug testing. If someone holds you down to get a saliva sample it’s fair to say they’ll be in more trouble than you, even if you have had drugs!
Even if an employer has every right to implement workplace drug testing, you have every right to refuse. Chances are you’ll be treated as having failed the test or even worse, depending on your employer’s policy (see below), but that’s your prerogative.
Can an employer implement workplace drug testing?
Believe it or not, there’s no one-size-fits all answer to the question. That’s because in Australia, workplace drug testing is carried out for reasons of safety. This is different in other countries – most notably the United States – where you be drug tested in virtually any job, but even in the US there is a slight shift in opinion.
Why is workplace drug testing intrinsically linked to safety in Australia?
Every state and territory in Australia has health and safety acts and other laws that dictate that employers have a general duty of care towards employees and others who may be present in the workplace. This means that employers have a responsibility for providing a safe workplace, as well as educating and instructing employees, consulting with employees on safety and ensuring that policies are adhered to.
This doesn’t mean workplace drug testing should be carried out in all workplaces, or more correctly for all roles. It’s hard to build a case for drug testing of many white collar workers for instance. But if a role is safety-critical (e.g. transportation driver, pilot, farm worker, mining employee, manufacturing worker, etc.) then there’s every reason why you should drug test.
What’s your policy?
Before workplace drug testing takes place, it’s important for an employer to develop a drug and alcohol policy. This will be a comprehensive policy that is customised to your specific workplace, your specific safety risks and your employees.
Importantly, it’s not good enough just to develop the policy. You need to communicate it with your employees and others that work on your site. You should also educate everyone within your organisation of the dangers of drugs and alcohol and the impact it can have on workplace safety.
If you do conduct workplace drug testing, your policy should include all the important details. This will include when testing takes place (e.g. after an incident or accident, when it’s thought an employee is under the influence, random testing), what type of testing is carried out (e.g. urine or saliva drug testing), what happens when someone fails drug testing and what happens when an employee refuses a drug test.
We’re here to help
If you have any questions about developing a drug and alcohol policy, educating your employees or conducting workplace drug testing, contact Integrity Sampling.
Can an employer conduct drug testing in your workplace? If safety is important, for example if your workplace is the cockpit of an airplane, then the answer is yes. Credit Westwind Air Service https://unsplash.com/photos/_TUvJQS9Aoo