Alcohol And Drugs Policy At Work: Key Elements That Can Be Included
03 November, 2023
Maintaining a safe and healthy work environment is crucial for any organisation. One key aspect of this is having clear regulations in place, including an alcohol and drugs policy at work. To address the effectiveness of safety measures, it is important for employers to establish a guideline that covers all necessary aspects. This includes the organisation’s stand on prohibited substances, testing procedures, access to services, disciplinary measures and legal rights.
Substance abuse in the workplace can have adverse effects, including judgment impairment, decreased productivity, and increased safety risks. Therefore, many employers create safety initiatives and risk management process to address the issue. However, the specific elements of these policies can vary depending on the organisation and industry. Hence, it is crucial to consider every aspect for effective guidelines. This article will present the purpose of the policy, the types of tests, and legality rights.
Alcohol and Drugs Policy at Work: Objectives and Purpose
There are numerous objectives and purposes of alcohol and drugs policy at work. One primary reason for implementing the guidelines is to promote workplace safety. By discouraging excessive consumption of alcohol and illicit drugs, employers aim to protect workplace health and increase feelings of well-being. Also, by establishing policies, employers can maintain high productivity, and employees can perform efficiently.
Many countries, specifically Australia, have laws in place to address responsible alcohol consumption and the elimination of illegal drugs. Hence, employers are required to comply with these regulations to avoid legal issues and potential liability. Accordingly, employers can demonstrate workplace relationships by committing to the health and well-being of employees.
Companies that have strong safety legislation tend to build a positive reputation among employees, clients, and the general public. This reinforces the workplace culture of values and dedication, enhancing image and credibility. Also, this serves as a preventive measure discouraging employees from engaging in substance use. This also encourages workers to seek help and recover.
Effects of Illicit Substances in the Workplace
- Impairment of performance – the effects of alcohol and illicit drugs can impair cognitive abilities, motor control, and judgment. This can decrease productivity and cause poor decision-making.
- Increases workplace accidents – substance abuse can impair coordination, reflexes, and alertness. This increases the risk of accidents, injuries, and harm to other workers.
- Higher absenteeism and lateness – employees with alcohol and drug-related issues may regularly call in sick or arrive late. This particularly disrupts work schedules, affecting the whole company.
- Negative impact on company reputation – this can raise concerns among clients, stakeholders, and potential business partners.
- Legal consequences – fines or even lawsuits can arise from accidents or injuries.
Alcohol and Drugs Policy at Work: Types of Test and Commonly Detected Substances
There are various types of tests used in an alcohol and drugs policy at work. One of the most common methods is urine testing. This test can detect a wide range of substances, particularly within 48 hours. Another is saliva testing. This involves the collection of oral fluid and is less invasive and easier to administer. However, the detection window for such an assessment is about 12 to 24 hours before the test.
A blood test is a more invasive method that measures the presence and quantity of substances in the bloodstream. It can provide accurate results, which is valuable in legal cases. The hair testing using the hair strand has the widest detection window. It can monitor substance use for about 90 days or even longer. However, it is less common due to their higher cost.
The testing process for the consumption of alcohol can use a breathalyser device. It measures the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) if it is within the legal blood alcohol level. Nevertheless, the methods can detect many substances. This includes ethanol, cocaine, marijuana, opioids, synthetic drugs, and misuse of prescription drugs.
Reasons to Test
Employers can facilitate the test for different reasons. Firstly, for pre-employment testing. Many employers require the assessment as part of the hiring process. This is to ensure that the candidate has no alcohol and drug-related problems. Secondly, for a random testing. This involves selecting employees to test without prior notice.
After accidents in the workplace, employers can conduct the testing. This is to determine if the use of substances occurred during the event. Also, if a manager has a reasonable suspicion, they may request testing. This includes signs like aggressive behaviour, unclear speech, or the smell of substance use.
Alcohol and Drugs Policy at Work: Legality and Rights to Privacy
The legality and rights to privacy of employees in an alcohol and drugs policy at work are important considerations for employers. In Australia, the testing is generally legal. However, employers must ensure that the testing programs comply with relevant legislation. Accordingly, employees have a right to privacy. While employers have the right to conduct the assessment, they must respect the privacy of employees.
Employees must give informed consent before undergoing substance testing. This means the employer should provide clear and understandable information about the evaluation. The guidelines must include the purpose of the test, the method for testing, and the consequences. Moreover, the test results must be handled with strict confidentiality. Therefore, only authorised people should have access to the results.
Employers should use medically reliable testing methods. These approaches should be able to detect substance use accurately and be less prone to false positives. Additionally, employees in Australia with substance issues are protected by various laws. Thus, employers need to be aware of their obligations to support the workers and consider counselling services or treatments.
Can an Employee Refuse a Test?
In most cases, an employee cannot refuse a drug and alcohol test if it is a requirement set by the employer. Many companies have policies in place that require employees to undergo testing as a condition of employment or to ensure a safe and productive work environment. Refusing to take a drug and alcohol test can often result in disciplinary action, including termination or suspension.
However, there may be some exceptions, such as violation of the rights of employees or medical reasons. Both employers and employees need to understand their rights and obligations regarding drug and alcohol testing in the workplace.
An alcohol and drugs policy at work is an effective way to ensure a safe working environment. Aside from that, the guidelines serve many purposes and objectives. This increases productivity, conforms with laws, maintains relationships, and early intervention. Employers can utilise different testing processes like urine, saliva, blood, hair testing or breathalyser devices for alcohol use. Hence, the company needs to follow regulations and consider the privacy of the employee.
With the policy, it eliminates the risk of impairment, potential accidents, absenteeism, and legal issues. Accordingly, employers can perform the testing for different reasons. This includes during the hiring process, randomly, for post-accident, or reasonable suspicion. Moreover, the employee must know the consequences of refusing a test. This can lead to disciplinary actions, suspension, or even termination on the job. Meanwhile, the employer also has the responsibility to support an employee who has a positive result.