Drug testing is an important step in ensuring workplace safety in many industries. In this article, we discuss oral fluid testing as an alternative to urine testing and why it may be more beneficial for both employers and employees.

Earlier this year, New Zealand released its first-ever saliva testing standards AS/NZS 4760:2019 for specimen collection and the detection and quantification of drugs in oral fluid. As a result, employers requiring drug testing now have the option to carry out oral fluid testing, as well as urine testing.

How oral fluid testing works

Oral fluid testing offers a dignified alternative to urine testing, which has been the default drug testing method. It allows employers to test their employee’s saliva, rather than urine. The process is made more comfortable with a testing kit, giving employers the autonomy to carry out drug testing. Employers do need to be trained, but the training is accessible and relatively simple.

While employers may be less reliant on outside drug testing agencies; as a result, employers must still be entitled to test. For most employers, this means that the employer must have reasonable cause to believe their employee is at risk of impairment due to drug use still applies. In safety-sensitive industries, you can also do random and post-incident testing.

Oral fluid testing and your employment agreement

While drug testing may not be necessary for all workplaces, it is essential for employers to carry out any testing in accordance with their legal obligations and their employment agreement. This means oral fluid testing will have to be provided for in the employment agreement before it can be carried out. If you opt for oral fluid testing, remember to update your workplace drug and alcohol policy to incorporate any changes.

The advantages of oral fluid testing

In addition to oral fluid testing allowing employees to be tested in a more dignified way, it has other benefits for the safety of the workplace, for example:

  • Results directly represent the individual’s current level of impairment, eliminating the chances of dismissal for recreational use outside the workplace
  • The quick results allow employers to immediately determine whether the individual is fit to work, improving workplace safety
  • Employers can carry out testing onsite and without the need for a drug testing bus, minimising the stigma associated with drug testing and getting everyone back to work faster.

For more information

For personalised advice on incorporating a drug testing policy into your workplace or updating your current policy, please contact our Wellington-based employment expert, Caroline Rieger on 04 495 8908 or email caroline.rieger@morrisonkent.com.

Workplace Drug Testing | Employment Law