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The Ice Epidemic

The Ice Epidemic (Last Updated On: August 9, 2016)

The ice epidemic in Australia has been hitting the newsstands recently, with surprising statistics about professionals seeking to enhance their performance at work by using the drug. Recently we focused on several high-profile families speaking out about their childrens’ addiction to ice. Click here for the related blog post on the story.  With use among professionals now on the increase, it is important for employers to know how to manage staff who may have an addiction.

Methylamphetamines are known for their stimulant properties, with increasing numbers of middle-class workers turning to the drug to get ahead in their workplace. In April this year, an investigation by Victorian police revealed that one in 12 truck drivers in Victoria were using ice to manage fatigue whilst driving.

How should employers address drug use in the workforce?

Drug and alcohol testing is a common method used by employers in an attempt to manage drug use in the workplace.  Unfortunately, simply having a policy on drug use and conducting random tests won’t necessarily be enough to protect employers from an unfair dismissal claim.  In recent times we have seen a number of employers going before the Fair Work Commission (FWC), defending their decision to terminate employees based on drug use.  It is important to note that the FWC will focus, not only on the evidence provided by an employer, but also the requirement to apply procedural fairness to the employee being dismissed.  In Tara Leah Cunningham vs Downer EDI Mining Pty Ltd, the employer was commended by the commissioner for their investigation and handling of a dismissal. In this case, the employee had been found to have levels of methylamphetamine in her system, four times the level of minimum detection.

So what did they get right?

It would be understandable for an employer, particularly a mining company, to want to immediately terminate any employee under the influence of drugs.  In this case, the employee was a truck driver, in charge of a 580-tonne truck on site.  The safety of other employees would have been of paramount concern in this situation.

Downer EDI stood the employee down whilst they conducted their investigation. They provided the employee with the opportunity to respond to the allegation, and considered her response. They also had well-known policies in place, which prohibited the use of, or being under the influence of drugs in the workplace.

How do you protect your business?

Almost every day we see cases in the media where an ex-employee has won an unfair dismissal claim against an employer, simply because the employer missed one step in the process. So what can you do to protect your business against an unfair dismissal claim, especially when the dismissal is justified? Below are five steps you can take to protect you and your business:

  1. Ensure all employees have received and acknowledged your policy on drug use in the workplace, including the consequences of any positive test results
  2. If your policy states that the business will conduct random drug and alcohol testing, make sure you are actually doing so. It is too late to start testing employees when there is suspicion of use of drugs. Enforcing these tests establishes an understanding that drug use is not acceptable before it becomes a problem
  3. Follow up the with information or tool-box sessions for employees and supervisors to ensure they are aware of the seriousness associated
  4. Engage with an independent medical provider to conduct testing and to provide a proper interpretation of results
  5. Document the procedure to be administered during any investigation, including timeframes, when an employee is entitled to have a support person present, and how and when meetings will be held
  6. At all times, ensure you consider the employee’s response to any allegations

If you are at all uncertain about managing a situation or producing accurate documents, contact Employsure. We will assist you every step of the way. 1300 651 415

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