As far as I know, the purpose of drug testing is to make sure that people aren’t under the influence while working. But something doesn’t make sense about this. Drug tests determine whether someone has had drugs in the past few days. Some drugs can stay in a person’s system for a week or more, so if someone had a fun Saturday night and a random drug test happens on Tuesday, they could lose their livelihood. Is this at all considered in company policies or drug laws?
It's legal to drug test employees, but ...
Testing for drug and alcohol use in Australian companies is not uncommon. For some industries, drug and alcohol testing is compulsory, such as in construction, aviation, and transport.
Since 2015, amendments to the Building Code 2013 have made it mandatory for building contractors working on building sites financed by federal dollars to undergo drug and alcohol testing.
As an employer, you have the right to insist on a drug or alcohol test for your employees, granted that the reasons are justifiable such as:
- the improvement of workplace productivity
- health concerns
- workplace safety
- maintaining employee integrity
But having justifiable reasons for drug or alcohol test is not enough. You are also required to stick to the parameters in your drug and alcohol policy. These parameters include:
- when the drug test can occur
- the type of drug test to administer
- how the results will be used
- how the company will respond to a positive test result
In summary, you must have a reason, you must have clear communication with employees on the when, where, what and how of the drug tests, and you must have reasonable responses to a positive test and/or refusal to undertake a test. If you don't you risk consequences.
In Shannon Green v Lincon Logistics Pty Ltd T/A Lincon Hire & Sales (2017) FWC 4916 delivered 20 September 2017 per Platt C, an inadequate drug and alcohol policy and its incorrect implementation allowed an employee to succeed in their claim for unfair dismissal.
Some drugs can stay in a person’s system for a week or more, so if someone had a fun Saturday night and a random drug test happens on Tuesday, they could lose their livelihood. Is this at all considered in company policies or drug laws?
As far as the person is concerned, he/she would have agreed to the condition of employment that if drugs are detected in their body — regardless of when they were actually consumed — they are fired.
As far as the company is concerned, the fuzziness of the testing method is acceptable trade-off. Whereas some no-longer-under-influence-last-weekend-dopers would have been weeded out, it is cheaper to replace them than enhance the testing method to actually detect state of being under influence.