When you study or research a subject such as drug addiction, you soon realise that it covers a huge array of different areas such as drug laws, drug treatment, drug rehab, drug education in schools, crime, and drug use at work, to name but a few. They may not all seem similar at first glance, but when you dig deeper, you will soon find that they are all linked in some way.
The subject we wish to discuss in this article concerns one of those we listed above: drugs at work, or to be more precise, drug testing at work. Drug testing at work can be a contentious issue with many employees feeling that it impinges on their rights. This belief prevails even if an individual has never taken an illegal drug in their life rather than them simply trying to avoid being tested and subsequently found to have taken drugs at work.
However, such are the drug, health and safety, and employment laws in this country; it is the case that almost all employees could be subject to a drug test while they are employed. For some, it has to be expected due to the position they hold. Obvious examples would be an airline pilot or a crane operator in a port facility. In those cases, and others where absolute clarity of mind and body are essential, zero tolerance is the legal stipulation, and mandatory drug testing is the norm.
So, what if you do not fly a plane, operate a crane, or do any other kind of job that would require mandatory testing? Well, that is where many of the questions surrounding drug testing at work arise, and thus we thought it would be useful to list the three most frequently asked of those questions, and give answers to them as best we could, so here they are.
Is My Employer Legally Allowed To Drug Test Me At Work?
The applicable courts in Australia generally regard drug testing as a privacy intrusion. However, that does not mean your employer will not be able to drug test you at work. If they can show reasonable grounds that, for reasons of health and safety drug testing would be legitimate, they would be allowed to carry them out. They may also put forward that, because they have a duty of care to all their employees, ensuring other employees are not using drugs is legitimate.
Do All Employers Conduct Drug Tests?
No, they do not, especially those whose operations would not raise significant health and safety considerations, such as a small retail store. However, each employer has the right to have a drug policy and drug testing as part of that policy in their business and include this in employment contracts. For this reason, anyone starting a new job should always carefully check the terms, conditions, and policies which are stated in their employment contract.
Can I Refuse A Drug Test At Work?
If your contract of employment states that drug testing is company policy, and your employer has a drug policy that you agreed to as part of your conditions of employment, then refusal of a drug test could have serious consequences for you.
By refusing a drug test you are effectively refusing a reasonable and lawful request from your employer. In addition, you would be breaching the terms of your contract. The result might be no drug test takes place, but also you lose your job as your employer would have grounds to dismiss you for the reasons just given.
However, if your employer suddenly and with no warning tells you they are going to conduct a drug test and there is no reference to this anywhere in your employment contract, nor is there any documented and agreed drug policy, then you could refuse. If they were to take further action against you for refusing the drug test, such as dismissing you, you would have a strong case to go to an employment tribunal for unfair or even unlawful dismissal.