Employee drug and alcohol abuse can be an expensive and complex problem for employers and colleagues alike.

The negative impacts of workplace drug and alcohol abuse can range from lost productivity and absenteeism through to injuries and legal ramifications.

The National Drug Strategy Household Survey in 2013 of people aged 14 years and over revealed:

  • 3.5% of the workforce had a day off work due to the consumption of alcohol
  • 2.5% of workforce reported going to work under the influence of illicit drugs
  • Around 5% of all Australian workplace deaths, and 11% of workplace injuries, involve alcohol.

The Thomson Reuters Drugs & Alcohol in the Workplace Conference series is taking place on 5 May 2021. The conference will cover the evolving legal justifications for drug and alcohol management, how to provide a safe work environment and best practices in preventive strategies.

The conference balances legal and practical viewpoints and aims to provide attendees with pragmatic advice on a range of issues such as:

  • The impact of drugs and alcohol on the workplace
  • WHS & Employment Laws and policies in relation to drugs and alcohol in the workforce
  • Developing a drug and alcohol workplace policy
  • Contentious issues in drugs and alcohol testing
  • After hours work functions and drugs and alcohol
  • Disciplinary options including dismissal and the risk of adverse actions
  • Fit for work, rehabilitation and managing addiction in the workplace
  • Legal and prescribed drug use in the workplace

We look forward to welcoming you to the conference.

For any event enquiries, please email eventsanz@thomsonreuters.com.

Dates & Locations

5 May 2021

Full price
$750 + GST

Register now



Welcome from the Chair

Taboka Finn, Special Counsel, Justitia Lawyers & Consultants


Fit for Work and managing alcohol or drug related problems

One of the biggest mistakes workplaces make in alcohol and other drug policy development is relying too much on drug testing. Testing is less effective in the absence of a more holistic policy approach that focuses on fitness for work. By taking a 'fit for work' approach, employers can reduce the negative impact of alcohol and other drug use on the workplace and improve workplace engagement, while reducing their costs.

  • Understand alcohol and other drug related use from a fitness for work perspective
  • Know how to incorporate fitness for work into policies and procedures
  • Learn what is best practice in managing leave and return to work

Dr Nicole Lee, Professor (Adjunct) National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University


What are the laws covering drug and alcohol use in the workplace and a review of latest case law

This session will cover the application of laws relating to drug and alcohol use in the workplace including those in relation to work health and safety, employment and anti-discrimination. A review of the latest cases in these areas will also help you gain insights into the implications of drugs and alcohol usage in the workplace, including:

  • The significant impact that illicit drugs and alcohol used during and outside work hours can have on workplace health and safety; and
  • Whether an employee can be dismissed for being affected by illicit drugs or alcohol at work?

Beth Stewart, Lawyer Workplace Relations & Safety, Lander & Rogers


TABLE TALKS: Creating healthy workplaces: Intervention and prevention programs for drug and alcohol

Where can we make changes to improve engagement of workers, line managers and senior management on drugs and alcohol usage? What resources are available to employees about the harmful effects of alcohol?


Networking and refreshment break


Developing and implementing a drug and alcohol policy

While some workplaces implement workplace drug and alcohol testing, a recent study found that policies are more effective than testing in addressing alcohol and drug use among workers.

This session will assess whether the drug and alcohol testing policy are reasonable and appropriate for your workforce and will cover:

  • What practical considerations to take when developing a drug and alcohol policy?
  • What an acceptable level of alcohol is?
  • What to include in the policy and who to cover in the policy?
  • How to consult with employees
  • Privacy considerations
  • Mandatory and random testing implications and issues

Hannah Dunai, Senior Associate, Holding Redlich


Drugs and alcohol testing critical issues

A good drug and alcohol policy can be an invaluable tool for managing health and safety in your workplace, provided any such policy is implemented fairly and administrated reasonably to balance employees’ rights with employers’ obligations. This session provides a toxicology viewpoint on testing processes and policies.

  • Sample collection processes
  • Sample analysis process issues
  • Options for testing - urine, vs oral vs hair etc

Professor John Edwards, Senior Toxicologist, AusHealth Work


Lunch and networking break


Pre-employment screening for drugs and alcohol as an effective risk management tool

Pre-employment medical assessments for drugs and alcohol can be a workforce risk management tool to screen individuals for risk factors that may limit their ability to perform a job safely and effectively. Organisations that implement testing programs in accordance with legal guidelines are better prepared to defend these procedures should a legal challenge to their hiring practices ever arise

  • How to protect the legal defensibility of an organisation's hiring process
  • What are the employee obligations for disclosure and rights of employer to conduct pre-employment?
  • Issues with statutory medicals
  • Preventing unfair discrimination in hiring to make the selection process fairer and more objective for all candidates

Catherine Dunlop, Partner, Maddocks


What are the disciplinary options available when a drug and alcohol test has been failed and how to minimise the risk of adverse actions

If an employee returns a positive sample to a test or refuses to undertake reasonable testing in line with their employment obligations, the next consideration is whether to take any disciplinary action. If disciplinary action is taken, it is crucial to strictly adhere to the relevant drug and alcohol and/or disciplinary policy.

  • Disciplinary options available to employers – warnings, dismissal, rehabilitation, training
  • When will drug or alcohol misuse or failure to submit to testing justify dismissal?
  • The importance of compliance with drug and alcohol policies when taking disciplinary action. Is a breach of policy enough? Or does the employer need to show the employee was impaired?
  • Steps to minimise a successful unfair dismissal, adverse action or discrimination claim when taking disciplinary action.
  • Learnings from recent case law

George Haros, Partner, Gadens


Networking and refreshment break


After hours work functions where there is drug and alcohol usage and practical tips to minimise risk

Social gatherings such as Christmas parties, after work drinks and client events all feature alcohol in the workplace. What does this mean in terms of your D&A policy?

  • How the definition of ‘at work’ can extend to any place where an employee performs work duties
  • Responsible service of alcohol obligations
  • Lesson from recent case law (Trudi Puszka v Ryan Wilks Pty Ltd [2019] FWC 1132) for unfair dismissal for summary dismissal - misconduct involving drunkenness at after work function
  • Creating a responsible drinking culture in the workplace

Erin Hawthorne, Partner, Seyfarth


Hypothetical case study: drugs and alcohol what happens when they cause workplace accidents?

This interactive session will discuss different scenarios where workplace accidents are (or are suspected to be) related to drugs and alcohol. It will draw together some of the key lessons of the day using hypothetical scenarios, including:

  • Identifying the types of claims which may arise and the legal risks faced by employers.
  • Navigating substance abuse, mental health and performance management.
  • Managing the potential impact of substance abuse on co-workers.
  • The duty of employers to maintain a safe workplace for employees and others.

Madelaine August, Partner, Moray & Agnew Lawyers


Closing remarks from the chair and end of conference