Drug and alcohol testing has become a necessary tool for
employers. It is understandable that companies would want to
implement drug testing to ensure the workplace and all who
work in it are kept safe. The Health and Safety in Employment
Act 1992 states employers have a responsibility to ensure a
safe workplace and that all practical steps are taken to
ensure the safety of the employees. http://www.dol.govt.nz/workplace/knowledgebase/item/1361
I work in an environment that is a little bit different in
that we employ people who then go on site to work for other
companies. Job assignments can range from construction to
office management. It is not a pre-employment requisite to
drug and/or alcohol test, however if a client requires a
worker to be drug tested before they are allowed on their
premises we ensure it is done by a AS/NZS 4308:2008 certified
A drug test can be taken for on behalf of our clients for the
following scenarios; Prior to employment as a pre-employment
screening process; Post-accident; Where there is reasonable
suspicion of drug/alcohol abuse; On a random or periodic
basis; As a follow up procedure after a positive test.
Applicants can be asked during the interview process that, if
required, would they pass a drug test. They are not
discriminated in any way by their answer. If required by a
company that has a drug and alcohol policy they are advised a
drug test will be performed. It is then up to the applicant
to accept or reject a test and accept the implications of the
result. If the candidate returns a negative pass (fail) test
for any of the drug classes they are obviously not sent to
the job. A variety of drugs are tested for.
I had an applicant fail a drug test where prescribed
medication was detected. It was declared on the consent form
and a doctor's signed confirmation was received. Employers
also need to remember that a reaction to a completely legal
"over the counter" drug could impair a worker's judgement
e.g. taking something for the flu could make an employee
drowsy and cause an accident or near miss incident. Employees
need to ensure warnings on packaging are followed e.g.
"Exercise caution while driving and operating heavy machinery
in addition to allowing extra time for decision making."
We can establish that it is fair to request a drug test for
workplace sensitive areas. What about after work? An employee
has a rudimentary right to privacy outside the workplace.
Surely what happens in the hours outside work in the
employee's private life should remain private. Mr Gallivern's
comments regarding workers changing their personal habits and
how it "extends to their home life as well" implies the home
is better off. This is only an assumption and could be
interpreted as an invasion of privacy.
When the employee walks out the workplace door, should the
employer still have control or interest in their personal
time activities? Would social media be included? If an
employee under the influence of drugs or alcohol posts
something on, for example, Facebook, does that give the
employer a right to drug test the employee when he next
arrives for work? I am sure it would be tempting, but would
be an intrusion of privacy as it was done in the private time
of the employee. The individual rights of the employee must
be protected as per Human Rights Act 1993 and the Bill of
Rights Act 1990.
Privacy is an individual right to decide how much other
people know about us - by the degree of information we share,
the way we live our lives socially or the time we spend
alone. The Privacy Act 1993 ensures it is legally protected.
The employer must consider the privacy issues associated with
drug testing. Is the employer concerned about a safe
workplace or do some organisations think along Mr Galliven's
"lower organisations health and safety costs" and therefore
increasing profits? Mr Galliven's comments are thought
evoking as to other reasons employers may introduce drug
I agree that certain habits can affect the lives of people,
but it may not be just drugs or alcohol. There are often a
variety of aspects in a person's life that can affect the way
they work- a health related issue, out of work commitments
(e.g. volunteer work), family problems, even work conflicts
could all contribute to workplace safety. The employer should
take all these into account when deciding whether to action a
drug test on an employee. If an employer feels a drug test on
an employee is deemed necessary, complete discretion is
required to ensure privacy during the process.
The law does not make it wrong to ask for an employee to do a
drug test but it may help determine whether the request is
justified. "Drug and alcohol testing can be the subject of a
fair and reasonable employer policy, even if this is not
expressly included in employment agreements." - John Rooney
Simpson Grierson. There should be a clear and concise outline
as to why a drug test is required, for example, if there is
an accident or near miss a compulsory drug test will be
conducted, and the consequences following a failed drug test.
Strategies need to be in place to assist employees who return
a fail including a warning, counselling, support in
rehabilitation. The implications of a failed drug test result
could be devastating in today's competitive and less
forgiving work environment and society as a whole.
I think drug testing in the workplace is here to stay.
Employers and employees need to ensure it is done in a fair
and ethical manner to maintain the continued safety within