Drug testing

Employee testing is mandatory for some industries, and is voluntarily conducted in others. The most important thing to know about drug testing is that it will not, on its own, make your workplace safe from the harms of alcohol and other drugs. It must be part of a suite of measures introduced to protect your employees and your business.

What is a drug test?

Testing identifies if traces of alcohol and/or other drugs are in the saliva, breath or urine of an employee. Hair and sweat testing are generally not used in Australia1.

Drug tests cannot tell exactly how much of, or when, any given drug was used. Apart from alcohol breath testing, no drug test can measure current impairment.


Drug testing best practice

To ensure that the introduction of drug testing is successful, it must:

  • Be justifiable
  • Be designed to address an identified risk
  • Adopt policies that are procedurally fair
  • Result in counselling, treatment and rehabilitation rather than punitive outcomes
  • Allow for employee input into the development and implementation of the program
  • Allow for a right of appeal

An alcohol and other drug policy is a necessity

The first step for any business must be to establish and promote an alcohol and other drugs policy that covers alcohol and illicit drugs, as well as licit pharmaceutical drugs. This policy must then be explained and promoted to staff so the business can prove employees were aware of it.

If drug testing is undertaken without also taking other necessary steps, such as establishing a clear policy and educating staff about it, terminating employees who return a positive test can potentially hurt your business.

At-risk business: 

An employee was dismissed after returning a positive drug test for Cannabis. The employee stated that he had used cannabis 7 days earlier and didn’t feel impaired, so he shouldn’t have been dismissed.

Dismissal was upheld by FWA.

FWA deemed the fact the employee was impaired or not, was irrelevant. The employer dismissed the employee because they returned the positive test, which was clearly stated in their policy. The employer also provided the employee an opportunity to respond to the allegation and the employee had received alcohol and drug training.

Considering drug testing in your workplace?

If it’s not a requirement in your industry, deciding if you organisations should spend the resources on drug testing can be a difficult choice. We can help you weigh up the costs and benefits.

Details about drug testing

Learn more about the specifics of testing.

  1. South Australian Government. (n.d.). Drug Driving FAQs.