While employers and employees may agree it is suitable for employers to carry out random drug and alcohol testing, it is a sensitive workplace issue.
Employers want to meet their obligation to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers by screening out employees who are impaired by drug use. Employees are concerned with any unjustified intrusions into their private lives.
In a recent case, a dispute between an employer and unions about the method of testing for a new drug-and-alcohol policy went to Fair Work Australia for arbitration. The unions had objected to urine testing for drug use. The employer lost its case that urine testing was a just and reasonable method, in view of the availability of saliva testing.
Fair Work Australia found the urine testing unjust and unreasonable, because oral testing was available, and was able to identify whether there had been recent consumption of drugs. FWA focused on the capacities of the different forms of testing to detect cannabis, the most widely used drug in Australian workplaces.
Urine testing can yield a positive result even when consumption of drugs occurred several days earlier, creating a risk of employees being made to account for drugs taken outside of the employment context.
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