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Workplace drug tests gain popularity

Two-thirds of people support workplace drug testing, according to a poll conducted by Brisbane's Courier Mail last month. The results showed 67.37% support for random drug tests of employees, with only 32.63% objecting to the idea.

Random drug tests have been a common feature of high-risk industries such as mining and construction for some time. They have, however, been less common in traditional desk-based jobs where, without heavy machinery or the associated health and safety implications, the risks are significantly fewer.

The Courier Mail, though, reports an increasing trend for one-size-fits-all drug-testing programs, where all workers – regardless of role or department – are subjected to random drug tests. The motivation, it seems, is equality – ensuring that all employees are subjected to the same scrutiny.

Opponents of the scheme argue that random drug testing impinges upon employees' privacy – the argument being that what employees do in their own time is their own business.

It's worth interrogating the idea of risk too. Sure, a desk jockey might not be operating heavy machinery or negotiating precarious physical environments as miners and construction workers might be. But desk-based roles can still put a company at significant risk – confidential information, financial assets, even decisions that affect the working life of fellow staff members.

iHR recently reported on the case of a hairdresser who was dismissed due to poor performance and conduct related to out-of hours drug use. Although FairWork Australia ruled that his dismissal was not unfair, they conceded that recreational drug use would not necessarily be a legitimate reason for dismissal in other cases. Read the full article here.

iHR believes that clear guidelines on what is expected of employees whilst in work and effective leadership and role-modelling can help organisations to prevent behavioural issues. Promoting work-life balance can help employees to feel their leisure time is valued and respected by their employer, providing that respect is reciprocated with appropriate behaviour at work.

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