Posted on: Apr 10, 2012

There are two major Employment Court cases on drug and alcohol testing in the workplace:  NZ Amalgamated Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union Inc v Air New Zealand Ltd (‘Air NZ”) and Maritime Union of New Zealand Inc v TLNZ Ltd (“MUNZ”).

The law is relatively clear following these cases that, in general, it is legitimate for an employer to introduce a drug and alcohol policy to the workplace, provided that the policy:

  • Is not inconsistent with an employment agreement; and
  • Is supported by the need to comply with statutory health and safety obligations; and
  • Is both lawful and reasonable; and
  • Does not impose random/suspicion-less testing on all employees; and
  • Is dynamic and has procedures in place for ongoing review as scientific advances are made (such as    less invasive means of testing); and
  • Sets out clearly what the testing protocols will be, who will carry out the testing, and the consequences of    failing a test.

Random testing
Only employees in safety-sensitive areas of work may be subject to random drug and alcohol testing.

Testing for cause
Provided there is a policy in place that allows drug and alcohol testing in the workplace, employers may test employees under the following circumstances:

  • Post accident/incident
  • Pre-employment
  • Pre-transfer to a safety-sensitive position
  • Reasonable cause to suspect impairment by the observation of symptoms (does not require actual    impairment – simply observing the employee and forming a view on reasonable grounds that they appear    to be impaired by some substance is sufficient)


This article, and any information contained on our website is necessarily brief and general in nature, and should not be substituted for professional advice. You should always seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters addressed.