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Employer Alcohol Policy – Guide For Developing One

07 November, 2023

An employee reading a document asking for consent to drug and alcohol testing

Irresponsible consumption of alcohol may result in accidents, absenteeism, and decreased productivity. Thus, an employer alcohol policy is crucial for establishing the guidelines and expectations regarding liquor consumption in the workplace. It must state its objectives, such as protecting employees and promoting a healthy workplace. Additionally, it may detail the types of tests the company may use. Lastly, it should inform employees about what happens if they get a positive result.

There are several instances when a company may conduct ethanol screenings. This includes during pre-employment, after accidents, under reasonable suspicion, or at random. They may also use urinesaliva, or breath tests to determine excessive alcohol consumption during working hours. These measures help lessen safety risks. This article will present a guide for developing a liquor policy, which includes identifying the objectives, the types of tests used, and what happens after a positive result.

Identifying the Objectives of an Employer Alcohol Policy

An employer alcohol policy is crucial for maintaining a safe and productive work environment. Companies may address potential issues related to alcohol consumption by clearly identifying the objectives. Firstly, the policy should protect employees and customers. It is the duty of the company to ensure the well-being of everyone in the workplace. Thus, the workplace policy should clearly outline what the acceptable limit for liquor intake is on the company premises or at company-sponsored events.

Secondly, the policy should promote a healthy work environment. Often, workplace relationships become strained due to inappropriate behaviour from liquor misuse. This leads to poor teamwork and less productivity. A comprehensive alcohol policy may help lessen these incidents. Thirdly, it should provide legal protection to the company. Workers who suffer from incidents may pursue legal action if there are no preventive measures to protect them.

Lastly, a policy should ensure compliance with federal and state laws. It should conform to legal requirements such as the Work Health and Safety (WHS) or the Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S). It may include ensuring the confidentiality of test results to ensure employee privacy.

Reasons to Conduct a Test

There are several instances when a company may conduct alcohol testing. These are some of them:

  • Random alcohol testing is often done to deter the intake of alcohol by employees.
  • Reasonable suspicion testing occurs when a worker shows signs of intoxication at work. Some signs include decreased motor control, erratic behaviour, and slurred speech.
  • Companies may also conduct a screening after an accident or a near miss. This helps them gather evidence regarding the cause of the incident. Moreover, it helps identify if liquor consumption was a factor.
  • Pre-employment testing helps companies determine if the applicant is fit for safety-critical positions.

A lab technician holding hair samples in tweezers

Types of Tests in an Employer Alcohol Policy

An employer alcohol policy may include several testing procedures. The urine test is the standard test used for checking substance abuse. It may detect traces of liquor abuse in urine samples for up to 24 hours. Additionally, an ethyl glucuronide (EtG) test may extend this to 80 hours.

Another type of test used for ethanol screening is the saliva test. It uses saliva samples from under the tongue or inside the cheek to detect liquor misuse. It has a detection time of up to 12 hours. Furthermore, the hair follicle has a detection period of up to 90 days. It is ideal for checking substance use history. However, it requires laboratory processing for the results.

Moreover, blood tests are considered the most accurate tests. Typically, this test has a detection window of 12 hours. However, carbohydrate-deficient (CDT) and Phosphatidylethanol (PEth) tests may detect consumption of alcohol weeks before collection. Lastly, breath tests measure the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of an individual. It may find traces of ethanol for up to 24 hours. Some workplace breathalysers are available at Breathalysers Australia.

Can an Employer and the Employees Refuse a Test

The ability of the employer and employees to refuse a test depends on the circumstances and regulations in place. In some cases, companies may require screenings in their employment agreement. Furthermore, some legal requirements may enforce mandatory testing after specific circumstances.

However, there are also cases wherein it is within the rights of the employee to refuse a test. This may include circumstances wherein it violates their privacy. In addition, they may refuse the screening if there are no reasonable grounds for testing. Companies and workers must understand their legal rights and obligations regarding testing in the workplace.

A woman frowning over the results the man is showing her

What Happens After a Positive Result in an Employer Alcohol Policy

The employer alcohol policy should explain the steps after a positive or non-negative result. The employee may undergo confirmatory testing to ensure the accuracy of the results. It may include a more thorough analysis of the previous sample. In addition, it may require a retest. This prevents the possibility of false positives from bringing undue repercussions.

If the positive result is confirmed, disciplinary action may follow. This will depend on what is outlined in the policy. Disciplinary measures may include warnings, suspensions, or termination. This depends on the severity of the violation and if it is a subsequent offence. Warnings for first offences are often done verbally. Meanwhile, written warnings provide documentation of the violation. A suspension may help the worker by providing a break to understand their situation. Employee dismissal is the most grave consequence.

However, employers should also offer resources to help employees suffering from Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). They may help provide support with assistance programs during rehabilitation. Furthermore, they may establish education and regular training regarding liquor misuse as a prevention tactic. This may promote responsible alcohol consumption within the company.

Potential Recovery Options

The potential recovery options for those with AUD typically involve detoxification and behavioural therapy. Detoxification is the process of removing liquor from the body. During this process, the individual must overcome their withdrawal symptoms. In some severe cases, this is done under the supervision of medical professionals. They may also give prescription medication to help with the withdrawal symptoms.

Meanwhile, behavioural therapy includes counselling and support groups. These are crucial for preventing relapse. Patients may also undergo regular check-ups so healthcare professionals may check their condition. This may assess if the patient is showing signs of relapsing and quickly address it.

Conclusion

An employer alcohol policy is crucial for maintaining the health and safety of everyone in the workplace. Its objectives should include protecting customers and employees, ensuring a healthy environment, mitigating legal risks, and complying with laws. Moreover, it should list the types of tests they may use. It may include blood, hair, urine, saliva, and breath tests. Some instances when companies conduct screenings are during pre-employment, under reasonable suspicion, at random, or after accidents or near misses.

In some cases, employees may refuse to take a test. However, this depends on the previous agreements between them and the company and the relevant laws. Companies may enforce disciplinary action to emphasise their commitment to the policy. However, they should also provide support in the form of assistance programs. After identifying employees with AUD, companies must maintain the confidentiality of results and ensure fairness.

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