Over $6 billion dollars per year… This is the cost to Australian employers for lost productivity and sick days attributable
to drug an d alcohol use. It is little wonder why safety-critical industries are increasingly committing resources to introduce or improve existing
measures to combat the impact of drugs and alcohol in their workplaces.
Implementing policies and procedures for effective management of drugs and alcohol in the workplace is one important step, as it assists employers with:
However, inadequately drafted or incorrectly implemented policies may cause an employer to experience something worse than a hangover. In Shannon Green v Lincon Logistics Pty Ltd T/A Lincon Hire & Sales 1 (“Shannon”), an inadequate drug and alcohol policy and its incorrect implementation allowed an employee to succeed in their claim for unfair dismissal.
In Shannon, the employer (“Lincon”) had a drugs and alcohol policy incorporating the use of random drug tests, which provided that refusal to participate will be regarded as a positive test resulting in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.
A Lincon employee was initially requested, as part of a workforce wide initiative, to submit to a random drug screening by way of urine sample. It was alleged some time after that the urine samples of the workforce had been diluted, so a further drug screening was required. The employee initially consented to a further urine test, but when he was told the second screening would be via a blood test, he failed to attend the clinic and otherwise refused. Lincon’s response was to dismiss the employee for failing to comply with a direction to attend the clinic for the drug test. Relevantly however, Lincon’s drug and alcohol policy did not specifically mention drug screening via blood tests.
In arriving at its decision, the Fair Work Commission considered Lincon’s drug and alcohol policy, and its implementation, and observed:
The FWC found Lincon’s direction to its employee to undergo a blood test was not expressly permitted by the drug and alcohol policy and was therefore not a reasonable direction. The employee was awarded compensation of ten weeks pay (reduced by other amounts such those earned in subsequent employment).
With the holiday season well underway, the time is ripe for employers to review the effectiveness of their drug and alcohol policies.
Regardless of the business size or type, most effective drug and alcohol polices are founded on how well an employer has considered the following:
The following provides some useful tips and tricks for employers in either instituting or reviewing a drug and alcohol policy.
Employers reviewing an existing policy:
Employers introducing a policy:
A policy is no good unless it is understood - ensure the policy is clearly communicated to all members of the workforce.
  FWC 4916.
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