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A Drug and Alcohol Policy can be provided by Employers to Employees, to outline how drug and alcohol use will be treated.
This may cover such things as:
In many cases, Employers in Australian may be found to have a legal obligation towards all Employees to provide a safe workplace. This may include ensuring that other Employees are not under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol while they are at work. Therefore, Employers might be under a legal obligation to implement an effective Drug and Alcohol Policy.
In other cases, Employees might argue that it is an invasion of privacy for an Employer to inquire about what the Employee does in their own time, provided that it does not affect their performance, safety or professionalism at work.
In addition, some industries are affected by specific legislation which affects drug and alcohol policies. For example, Employers which operate in construction, heavy industry or other similar high-risk environments might have more stringent obligations in relation to drugs and alcohol.
If an Employee's employment is terminated for a drug and/or alcohol related matter, and that termination is not consistent with the procedures outlined in the Employer's Drug and Alcohol Policy, then it may be possible for the Employee to claim that an unfair dismissal has occurred. Therefore it is important that this document accurately reflects the Employer's actual approach to drugs and alcohol.
Drug and Alcohol Policies are not generally intended to be contractually binding on Employees. Instead, they explain the Employer's general rules, procedures and expectations of Employees in relation to drugs and alcohol. As a consequence, if the Employer fails to follow a particular policy, the Employee may not be able to claim that the Employer has breached its contractual obligations. However, this also means that if there are specific matters of importance, that should be legally binding on the Employee (such as their specific job duties, their hours of work, confidentiality obligations, or conflict of interest obligations), then the Employer should make sure that these are addressed in a legally binding document, such as an Employment Agreement, a Confidentiality Agreement or a Non-Compete Agreement.
How to use this document
Use this document to notify Employees of how the Employer will handle matters involving drugs and/or alcohol.
Ensure that the document accurately reflects the Employer's actual approach to drugs and alcohol.
Once the document has been completed, it can be made available to Employees. It may be provided to new Employees when they first start working with the Employer. For existing Employees, it may be distributed, together with a message to notify them that this document outlines the Employer's updated approach to drugs and alcohol.
In any event, it is important that the details of this Policy are actually communicated to Employees, and that Employees actually understand what is expected of them.
Some Employers choose to have Employees sign a copy of the document, to confirm that they have read and understood it. Signed copies may be kept on file by the Employer.
Some Employers also choose to make reference to this Policy within the Employment Contract.
Each state and territory has legislation in relation to work health and safety. Further information is available from Safe Work Australia.
Various industries have industry-specific laws which address drug and alcohol matters in the workplace. For example, the Building Code creates mandatory drug testing in some cases. Further information is available from the Australian Building and Construction Commission.
In addition, the Fair Work Act 2009 (Commonwealth) deals with other employment matters such as unfair dismissal.
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