Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy

Jasmine BurrowsAuthor: Jasmine Burrows, Progressive Legal

alcohol and other drugs policy

In today’s corporate landscape, ensuring a safe and productive work environment is a top priority for businesses. One significant aspect that demands careful consideration is the formulation of a comprehensive Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy.

Such a policy is essential to maintain a balance between respecting employees’ rights and safeguarding the company’s interests. On this page, we will explore why your business needs an Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy, why it should be well drafted, and what it should include.   

Why does your business need an Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy? 

The presence of alcohol and other drugs in the workplace poses significant risks to both the individual and your business as a whole. Impaired employees can compromise safety, productivity, and decision-making, leading to accidents, errors, and decreased efficiency. Furthermore, substance abuse can result in interpersonal conflicts, absenteeism, and high turnover rates, all of which can negatively impact a business. 

Additionally, numerous legal implications surround substance use in the workplace. Employers must comply with federal, state, and local laws concerning drug testing, accommodation of employees with substance use disorders, and providing a safe working environment. Having a clearly defined Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy helps businesses navigate the legal complexities and mitigate potential liabilities.  

Why do you need a well-written Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy? 

A comprehensive Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy is more than just a set of rules. It serves as a proactive measure to address potential issues arising from substance abuse in the workplace. A well-designed policy is important for several reasons: 

Legal compliance

Australia has laws and regulations related to drug and alcohol use in the workplace. A well-drafted policy ensures that the company is in compliance with these laws, reducing the risk of legal issues and potential liability.  

Equal treatment and fairness

A well-written policy provides consistent guidelines for all employees, promoting fairness and equal treatment across the business. It sets clear expectations and consequences for violations, ensuring that no employee is unfairly targeted or treated differently. 

Reputation and public image

Companies with well-defined policies demonstrate their commitment to maintaining a safe and responsible work environment. This can positively influence the company’s reputation, both among employees and in the eyes of customers, clients, and stakeholders. 

If your business applies to a tender process or seeks to perform work for a larger organisation, having an Alcohol and Other Drugs policy can help your reputation and image in that process.   

Rehabilitation and support

An effective policy should not solely focus on punitive measures but should also offer support and resources for employees struggling with substance abuse. This approach can help employees seek assistance and rehabilitation while maintaining their employment. 

Prevention and education

A comprehensive policy can include educational programs and resources to raise awareness about the dangers of substance abuse and the resources available for employees who may need help. 

Mitigation of workplace conflicts

Substance abuse can lead to conflicts among employees, affecting team dynamics and overall morale. A clear policy sets expectations and boundaries, reducing the likelihood of such conflicts. 

What should an Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy include? 

Purpose and Scope

Clearly outline the purpose of the policy, which is to ensure a safe and productive work environment for all employees and stakeholders. State the policy’s scope, including whether it applies to all employees, contractors, visitors, and anyone representing the company. 

Prohibited Substances and Conduct

Specify the substances that are prohibited on company premises or during work hours. This may include illegal drugs and unauthorised use of prescription drugs. Some businesses have strict requirements that any prescription medication that may impact an employee’s performance must be disclosed.  Additionally, mention the expected standards of conduct regarding alcohol consumption, such as not being intoxicated at work. 

Drug Testing

If drug testing is a part of the policy, clearly explain the circumstances under which testing may be conducted (e.g., post-incident, random, reasonable suspicion) and the procedures for conducting tests. Respect employees’ privacy rights and ensure compliance with relevant laws. 

Consequences of Policy Violation

Clearly outline the consequences of policy violations. This may include disciplinary actions, up to and including termination of employment. Be consistent and fair in enforcing these consequences. 

Education and Training

Promote awareness and understanding of the policy through education and training programs for all employees. This can include information about the effects of substance abuse, how to recognise signs of impairment, and available support resources. 

Support and Rehabilitation

Demonstrate a commitment to helping employees facing substance abuse problems by providing access to confidential support resources, counselling, and rehabilitation programs. Encourage employees to seek help without fear of retaliation. 

Reporting Mechanisms

Establish clear procedures for reporting suspected violations of the Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy. Assure employees that such reports will be handled confidentially and without reprisal. 

Duty of Care and Safety

Emphasise the responsibility of all employees to maintain a safe working environment. Encourage employees to report safety concerns related to substance abuse. 

Accommodation for Medical Needs

Address how the company will handle employees who have legitimate medical needs for prescription medications that may affect their ability to work safely. 

Review and Update Process

State that the Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy will be periodically reviewed and updated to reflect changes in laws, regulations, or company needs. Encourage feedback from employees to improve the policy over time. 

Integration with Other Policies

Ensure that the Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy is consistent with other workplace policies, such as the company’s code of conduct, health and safety policy, and anti-discrimination policy. 

Communication and Distribution

Make the Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy easily accessible to all employees. Distribute the policy during onboarding and periodically reinforce its importance through company communications. 

Contact us today to develop a personalised alcohol and other drugs policy that fosters a positive work environment and supports your employees’ well-being.

Risky Areas with an Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy 


Employers should be sure that their policies respect employees’ privacy and considers the business’s needs against the employee’s right to privacy.  For instance, requiring employees to disclose medication they may take could be overly invasive in some circumstances. 

Testing should also be reasonable for the workplace.  For instance, it may be appropriate to regularly test employees in a high-risk environment.  Some high- risk work environments require daily pre-work testing.  This would probably not be considered an appropriate use of resources in all work environments.  

Employers must also be careful to uniformly apply their policy.  Many employers state that they have a “zero tolerance” policy towards alcohol and other drugs.  Whatever your policy is, you must be sure to apply it 100% of the time.  Employers looking to develop an alcohol and other drugs policy should consider the difference between an employee being under the influence of alcohol and other drugs, having alcohol and other drugs in their systems at work, and balance those risks with insurance and other risks.   

Employers should be clear about their policy and their testing policy.  For instance, if an employee tests not negative on a test result, the employer needs to have a clear procedure on secondary testing and subsequent disciplinary actions.   

Relevant Law 

In order to develop an Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy for your business, you need to be aware of both the relevant federal laws as well as the applicable laws in your particular jurisdiction. Any relevant laws should be referred to in an Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy. Some examples of laws include: 

Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)

The Privacy Act governs the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information, including data related to drug and alcohol testing. Employers must ensure that any drug or alcohol testing program complies with privacy principles and respect employees’ rights to privacy and confidentiality. 

Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)

The Fair Work Act protects employees from unfair treatment and dismissal based on certain protected attributes, which may include disability or medical conditions. Often people with disabilities and certain medical conditions suffer disproportionately from substance use problems. An Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy would ensure that employers handle such situations with sensitivity and provide support and reasonable accommodations where appropriate. 

Work Health and Safety (WHS) Laws

Each state and territory in Australia has its own set of WHS laws, which outline the duty of care that employers have to provide a safe working environment for their employees. These laws generally require employers to take reasonable steps to prevent risks, including those related to drug and alcohol use, that could harm the health and safety of employees and others in the workplace. 

Australian Standards for Drug Testing

If a workplace implements drug testing, it is essential to adhere to the relevant Australian Standards for drug testing procedures and methods. These standards ensure the accuracy, fairness, and consistency of drug testing practices. 

State/Territory Drug and Alcohol Laws

Some states and territories have specific laws related to drug and alcohol testing in certain industries, such as transportation, mining, and construction. These laws may mandate drug testing for safety-sensitive roles and outline the specific requirements for testing. 

Workers’ Compensation Laws

Workers’ compensation laws vary by state/territory and provide coverage for employees who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses, including those related to substance abuse issues. Employers need to ensure their alcohol and other drugs policies align with workers’ compensation requirements. 

Anti-Discrimination Laws

Both federal and state/territory anti-discrimination laws prohibit discrimination based on certain attributes, including disability, which may include substance abuse problems. Employers must not discriminate against employees seeking help for substance abuse issues and should provide appropriate support and accommodations. 

To ensure that your alcohol and drug policy is addressing all the relevant laws, it is crucial that you seek professional legal advice. Feel free to contact us at Progressive Legal by making an enquiry below. 

Key Takeaways 

A well-designed Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy is not just a legal necessity; it is a fundamental aspect of building a safe, productive, and successful workplace. By prioritising employee well-being, fostering a drug-free environment, and complying with applicable laws, businesses can establish a culture of safety and responsibility that benefits everyone involved.  

It is pivotal that you seek legal advice on your business’ Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy to ensure that your business is legally protected. We have a highly skilled team of workplace lawyers at Progressive Legal that are experts at drafting policies. Feel free to give us a call on 1800 820 083 or make an enquiry below.  

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