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Under New Zealand law, both employers and employees have a duty to ensure their workplace is safe. Employers need to provide employees with protection from risks. Dangerous behaviour from use of alcohol or other drugs is a risk that needs to be managed.

Employees also need to take care of their own and others' safety. They must comply with health and safety policies, including alcohol and drug policies.

Keeping employees safe

Employers can take a proactive approach to keeping their employees safe in the context of alcohol and other drugs by:

  • having good management processes
  • keeping channels of communication open with employees
  • being aware of signs and symptoms of impairment
  • introducing a culture of recognising and reporting risks

Planning alcohol and drug policies

When you're planning your alcohol and drug policies, it's a good idea to:

Seek advice on Employee and Human Rights, and any obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi:

Drug testing may infringe the rights of an employee. Workplace policies must consider the right to privacy under the Privacy Act 1993 and rights under the Human Rights Act 1993 and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

Other things to take into account include sample collection procedures, the method of analysis and the handling of test results.

Be clear that alcohol and drug policies form part of the employment agreement:

Generally, an employer may only require employees and other workers to submit to alcohol or drugs tests if this is a condition of their appointment and recorded in the employment agreement or other document.

Develop policies and processes in consultation with affected employees:

If employers have jointly developed a process on alcohol and drug use then it is more likely to be followed.