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Drug & Alcohol Testing in the Workplace

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Drug and alcohol testing in the workplace has always been a contentious issue. The prevalence of illicit drugs and the harmful effects it has on workplace productivity and safety is not disputed. Employers, as a result, are implementing drug and alcohol testing policies for their employees, at an increasing rate.

The recent decision handed down by the Full Bench of Fair Work Australia, on appeal, in Wagstaff Piling Pty Ltd; Thiess Pty Ltd v Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union highlights how, depending on the circumstances, instructing an employee to submit to a compulsory drug and alcohol test, including a random test, may be reasonable.

In this matter, Wagstaff is subcontracted to Thiess to undertake piling work on the Tulla-Sydney Alliance Project (‘the Project’) which involves substantial freeway widening and construction work. Thiess sought to apply their drug and alcohol policy to the Project, in respect of not only its own employees but also to the employees of Wagstaff. The Full Bench stated that, ‘The risks to employee safety posed by drug and alcohol use have long been recognised by this Tribunal and compulsory drug and alcohol testing is, of itself, not so extraordinary that it could not be argued to be a reasonable employer instruction…’

This matter highlights, amongst other things:

  1. the risk posed by employee use of drugs and alcohol;
  2. the duty of employers to not only their employees, but also to the public at large;
  3. the importance of having a clear and lawful drug and alcohol testing policy for employers to rely on; and
  4. the need to ensure that a drug and alcohol testing policy is referenced in the scope of an employment agreement in order for it to be seen as being a reasonable employer instruction.

Please call the Mason Sier Turnbull Workplace Relations Team if you are considering implementing a Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Policy.

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