Alcohol and other drugs policy

How to develop or review a workplace policy and procedure for dealing with alcohol and other drugs.



How will I benefit from this action?

Employees under the influence of alcohol or other drugs put themselves and other people in the workplace at risk of harm.

There are benefits when employers prevent problems caused by alcohol and drug use. These include; improved productivity, reduce absenteeism and improved health of their employees.

An alcohol and other drugs policy will help to get you and your employees on the same page about what's appropriate.

By following the guide provided, you can increase awareness in your workplace and create a strong policy that protects yourself and your employees.

If you or any of your employees are concerned about drug or alcohol use, DirectLine offers confidential 24-hour telephone counselling, information and a referral service for anyone in Victoria who wants to talk about an alcohol or drug-related issue.

Contact DirectLine on 1800 888 236.

Key stats and facts

Step 1: Understand the impacts alcohol and other drugs can cause in the workplace

The use of alcohol and other drugs can have a significant impact on your employees and workplace. Research shows that harmful use can impact on relationships, productivity and safety. 

As a workplace, you have the responsibility and obligation to address alcohol and other drug issues by ensuring the health and safety of all employees.

Watch this short 2 and half minute video below from the Australian Drug Foundation to understand the impact that alcohol and other drugs can have on your own workplace. For more information read 'Get the facts' from DrinkWise Australia.

Step 2: Talk with your employees about alcohol and other drugs in your workplace

A workplace culture with a sensible, safe attitude to alcohol and other drug use is more easily achieved when employers and employees talk to each other about what problems might come up and work together to fix them.

Starting conversations about alcohol and other drugs in your workplace can help to clarify expectations of behaviour. Having these discussions in your workplace will also help to build trust within your team.

Consultation with your employees

There are many ways you can talk with your employees about alcohol and drug use and its impact on your workplace, including:

  • one-on-one discussions with your team leaders and employees
  • formally through meetings and having drugs and alcohol as an agenda item at your regular meetings. These may be 'toolbox talks', production meetings, staff meetings or any way your organisation communicates with each other
  • when you casually walk around your workplace with your staff
  • communicate and discuss when doing an induction
  • through your health and safety representatives
  • through your health and safety committees
  • in your leadership meetings
  • internal social media platforms, peer to peer applications
  • through wellness and health promotion activities and social events

The workplace environment and culture is often overlooked when it comes to assessing the cause of alcohol and other drug concerns in the workplace. As you start to develop or review your alcohol and other drugs policy in step 2, be aware of some additional risk factors that may increase alcohol and drug concerns in the workplace. This could include:

  • working long hours
  • poorly managed shift work e.g. insufficient breaks or time between shifts
  • stress
  • workplace conflicts
  • bullying and harassment
  • peer pressure
  • working alone or in isolation
  • workplace values and culture, especially the extent to which it is considered normal to use or be impaired by alcohol and/or other drugs at work
  • ease of access to alcohol and/or drugs at work

Step 3: Develop or review your alcohol and other drugs policy

Use the guide and policy example below to develop or compare your own alcohol and other drugs policy.

Regularly reviewing and updating your policy will make sure it addresses situations that are likely to arise in your workplace. Complete the checklist to see if you have covered the basics.

Alcohol and other Drugs Policy checklist

  • A clear statement outlining what the alcohol and other drugs policy is aiming to achieve
  • State exactly who the policy applies to; the company, branch, site/office, and range of employees each part of the policy applies to (for example, certain roles or work sites may have stricter policies)
  • It should be clear that the policy applies to management as well
  • A code of behaviour outlining when it is appropriate to consume alcohol and/or other drugs (such as prescription medication) at or before work. It should make clear that you need to maintain a certain standard of behaviour
  • Work sponsored functions and the provision of alcohol
  • Roles and responsibilities of leaders, employees and relevant committees to address alcohol and other drugs use in the workplace
  • Special rules for high-risk duties or professions. List all the roles and tasks that could seriously hurt people if not performed carefully. List any roles that should have alcohol and other drugs testing
  • Outline plans to train people in your alcohol and other drugs policies, and write down what will happen to people in these roles if they breach the policy
  • The procedure for alcohol and other drugs testing (only in workplaces where it's necessary)
  • Policy review schedule for every 2 years
  • Support services (if an Employee Assistance Program is available, outline it here)
  • Discipline (what counts as breaching the policy, and what the response will be, including warnings procedures)

Step 4: If your workplace has an alcohol and other drugs testing policy, make sure it's fair

Employers have the right to try and prevent employees coming to work affected by alcohol or other drugs when it would pose a serious risk to health and safety. In this case, testing might be needed to make sure people are not impaired when they are doing work that could put themselves, or anyone else at risk.

If testing is required in your workplace, the policy and procedure should be clearly documented and available so everyone knows about it. The checklist below shows you what a reasonable testing policy looks like.

Alcohol and other drugs testing checklist

If an employer decides to implement alcohol or drug testing:

  • it should be part of a comprehensive alcohol and other drugs policy
  • it should be supported by clear policy and procedures, and everyone should be given full information about what it involves, and when it will happen
  • employees should get to have their say on the testing policy and procedures, when employees agree with how it is done, you will get a lot more support
  • employees' need for privacy and confidentiality should be respected where possible
  • you should know what you will do if an employee refuses to be tested
  • you should have procedures in place to help employees who test positive return to work when appropriate, including the future testing regime they must commit to

Supporting procedures

  • before you begin testing, you must decide what the allowable results are, and tell everyone in the workplace
  • when deciding which people to test, you must make sure you do not discriminate
  • before you begin testing, decide exactly who will be told about the results. No one else should be told
  • these confidentiality protections should also state how long the test results will be kept for
  • there is a grievance and complaints process, including procedures allowing people to challenge the test results
  • procedures are put in place to make sure anyone who tests positive is sent home safely (not allowed to drive themselves)

Step 5: Continue to review, educate and discuss your policy with your employees

Use your meetings, OHS committees or 'toolbox talks' to discuss your alcohol and other drugs policies and procedures. In addition, this could be done through wellness and health promotion activities. Resources below on worker wellbeing can help with understanding and starting those conversations. Think of some other ways you can discuss this with your employees - sometimes this works best in a less formal environment such as a discussion in your tearoom.

Share your alcohol and other drugs policy and procedure widely so that all employees are aware of them. In addition, you could share the resources from step 1 too. This could include:

  • displaying them on your notice boards
  • sharing through email
  • intranet systems or other used communication programs e.g. Slack, Skype
  • toolbox talks or team meetings
  • sharing case studies or videos
  • TV screens with rolling safety messages
  • key messages on computers, machinery, tools, Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE) or other equipment

Make sure your employees have a chance to ask questions. You can also use the tips below to raise awareness of the risks of alcohol and other drugs in the workplace.

Review the policy as per your organisations guidelines, make sure this happens regularly and ties in with your other relevant review processes such as occupational violence and aggression, and prevention of bullying policies. Creating a review schedule with date prompts or reminders can assist with ensuring your policies are reviewed regularly.

Tips for sharing your policy

  • Can we clearly explain what the policy is trying to achieve?
  • What are the procedures or the day-to-day tasks that need to be done to keep our workplace healthy and safe?
  • Who needs to do what, when and why?
  • What information, resources and training do employees need and how will it be provided?
  • How will outcomes be measured?
  • How often will the policy and procedures be reviewed?
  • How will you get employees' views on the policy?
  • Is there a plan to share it with your staff and make sure you understand it?

Bus Association Victoria, 2015

Step 6: Take the next step and join the Achievement Program to complete the Healthy Workplaces Health Priority Areas

Continue to improve your alcohol and other drug processes by joining the Victorian Government's Achievement Program. The Achievement Program is a way to really make health and wellbeing part of daily business. You can work at your own pace, and along the way you'll be recognised by the Victorian Government as a health promoting workplace, supporting your workplace's position as an employer of choice.

Backed by evidence, it will also help you communicate your ideas to management and get your workplace leaders and colleagues on board with the initiatives you're proposing. It's also completely free. Good management of alcohol and other drugs is 1 of the 5 areas identified in the Achievement Program to create a healthy workplace.

More information

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