Sometimes an employer will want to test you for drugs before they offer you a job. A pre-employment drug test is when an employer wants you to take a drug test before they hire you. This type of test is used to see if you’ve used drugs recently.
Pre-employment drug testing is similar to workplace drug and alcohol testing. Workplace drug and alcohol testing is regular testing done on employees. It’s common in industries where safety is extremely important, like aviation, mining and construction.
If an employer wants you to take a drug test before they give you a job, you’ll probably be expected to take regular drug tests during the time you work for them. If this is the case, the employer should explain this when they request that you take a drug test.
What sort of drug tests are used?
The type of test you’re asked to do will depend on the employer’s workplace drug and alcohol policy. The tests are usually done by an independent testing company hired by the employer. The test may be done at the employer’s location, or you may need to go to the testing company’s location.
The test will usually involve taking a sample of your saliva or urine (sometimes blood or hair, but this is less common). The sample will be collected by a person who’s with you when you provide it. You’ll be given some privacy, but you'll also be monitored to make sure you take the test properly.
What kind of drugs do pre-employment drug tests identify?
Different kinds of drug tests can test for different kinds of drugs.
- A saliva test is usually used to detect signs of illegal drugs, like cannabis, amphetamines, methamphetamines, cocaine or heroin.
- A urine test can also detect benzodiazepine prescription drugs, like relaxants and sleeping pills (for example, Valium or Xanax). If you’re taking these drugs with a prescription, it’s a good idea to bring a letter from your doctor listing your meds when you go for the test.
Why do employers test for drugs?
Employers test for alcohol and other drug use because they have a legal responsibility to provide a safe workplace. They don’t want anyone to get hurt because a worker was drunk or on drugs.
Employers may also use pre-employment drug tests because people who misuse drugs may be more likely to take time off work. Drug misuse by their employees might also cause other issues in the workplace.
If your pre-employment drug test detects drugs in your system, the employer probably won’t offer you a job.
If you think your drug test gave the wrong results, you should try discussing this with the employer. You can also contact one of the organisations listed below.
What are your rights when it comes to drug tests?
If you’re asked to take a drug test, make sure the employer explains:
- the workplace policy on alcohol and other drug use
- the testing process
- what happens if you test positive or refuse to be tested.
You don’t have to take a drug test if you don’t want to. However, the employer also has the right not to employ you if you refuse to take a drug test.
If you think you've been treated unfairly, or you don't agree with the results of a pre-employment drug test you can:
- get help from your union
- contact the Fair Work Ombudsman.
- seek legal advice from Victoria Legal Aid.