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 in Melbourne and Sydney on 24 & 25 February 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

24 February 2021, Crown Plaza

25 February 2021, Sheraton Grand Sydney Hyde Park

Your investment

Early Bird price
$650 + GST
Early bird closes 11 December 2020

Full price
$750 + GST

Register your interest




Welcome from the Chair

Sydney: Kate Curtain, Senior Associate, Corrs Chambers Westgarth
Melbourne: Taboka Finn, Special Counsel, Justitia Lawyers & Consultants


Fit for Work and managing alcohol or drug related problems

Increasingly, employers are taking proactive steps to address drug or alcohol problems by establishing or promoting programs focused on improving health. By encouraging and supporting treatment, employers can dramatically assist in reducing the negative impact of addiction in the workplace and improving workplace engagement, while reducing their costs.

  • Identifying and managing alcohol and drug related problems.
  • Workplace policies and fitness for work procedures
  • Sick leave and managing long term absences from the workplace
  • Rehabilitation and facilitating return to work

Professor Ann M Roche, Director, National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA), Flinders 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?

Melbourne: Emily Bowly, Senior Associate, Lander & Rogers Lawyers
Sydney: Keifer Veloso, Lawyer, Lander & Rogers Lawyers


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

Melbourne: Hannah Dunai, Senior Associate, Holding Redlich
Sydney: Luis Izzo, Managing Director - Sydney Workplace, Australian Business Lawyers & Advisors


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

Melbourne: Catherine Dunlop, Partner, Maddocks Sydney: Brigid Clark, Senior Associate, 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

Melbourne: Emma Moran, Senior Associate, Gadens
Sydney: Brett Feltham, 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

Melbourne: Erin Hawthorne, Partner, Seyfarth
Sydney: Emily Aitken, Senior Associate, 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.

Melbourne: Madelaine August, Partner, Moray & Agnew Lawyers
Sydney: Tim McDonald, Partner, Moray & Agnew Lawyers


Closing remarks from the chair and end of conference