Testing employees on a mandatory basis for alcohol and illicit drugs in the workplace in Australia is not uncommon. However, in those industries where it does occur, such as mining, transportation, and correctional services, and with the understanding that the employer does have the right to insist that the employees be tested, what are the corresponding obligations vis-a-vis the employees' privacy and safety. What our analysis will show is that while privacy remains the prevalent employee concern, workplace drug testing can be justified for reasons of employer productivity, safety within the workplace, and the integrity expected of employees within industries where the community would be adversely sensitive to any notion that the employees were not observing the legal and moral code expected of law-abiding citizens (exemplars would be the police and those serving in correctional facilities). But justification alone is not enough. Workplace drug testing needs to be supported by appropriately argued and supported parameters as to when it can occur, how it can occur, what can be tested, and what can be done with the results. It is only by specifying these boundaries that we as a community will support and accept the intrusive nature of workplace drug testing. Law must have a role in setting those limits. To date the decisions on this practice have failed to do this.
15 May 2014
'A workplace drug testing act for Australia' by Grant Allen, Jason; Jeremy Prichard and Lynden Griggs in (2013) 32(2) University of Queensland Law Journal argues that