A tougher stance on employees under the influence of drugs or alcohol is shrinking the rural labour pool.
Rural sector employers say they need to take a united stand against employing those who choose to work under the influence alcohol or drugs, putting safety and the business at risk.
However, the outcome of adopting such a stance has been to shrink their already limited labour pool, they say.
Employers across all sectors are becoming more vigilant about drug and alcohol testing in the workplace, as well as pre-employment testing, because they have a duty under the Health and Safety in Employment Act to provide a safe workplace. . .
People working under the influence of drugs or alcohol aren’t just a danger to themselves they can put other people vehicles, machinery and equipment at risk too.
Landcorp Farming Ltd national recruitment and training manager Al McCone said the state-owned enterprise had had a drug and alcohol policy in place since 2007.
Landcorp Farming Ltd, one of the country’s largest farmers, strictly enforced its alcohol policy and was looking to extend its drug policy, Mr McCone said.
Pre-employment drug testing was already mandatory and at present it was consulting staff about expanding its workplace testing to include random testing, he said.
Staff were required to take on many responsibilities on farm.
This included dealing with animals and machinery – a potentially ”hazardous” mix, he said.
”We need people in full control of their faculties.” . . .
But not everyone wants to be in control of their faculties.’
Drug use seemed to be a factor making it difficult for some people to get work, he said.
”As soon as they find out we have an entry drug test they will hang up [the phone].
”It’s reducing the population we can draw our workers from.” . . .
DairyNZ people team leader Jane Muir said she believed more farmers were carrying out pre-employment and on-farm drug testing. . . .
A united stand was ”the ideal”, and showed there was ”no place for drugs on farms”.
However, the shortage of labour meant it posed a ”challenge”.
Work on dairy farm involved working with other people and with a food product. Employees must be heedful of health and safety and have good skills, attitude and concentration, she said.
To attract and keep the best employees and keep drugs and alcohol out of the workplace employers had to build a reputation as an ”employer of choice”, provide ”great” working conditions and encourage staff to be involved in the business, Ms Muir said.
Contracts, systems, policies and procedures around drug-testing must be sound and adhered to by the employer, as well as the employee, she said.
”If you say you have random testing then you must carry out random testing.
”Be aware, even if someone tests positive, there is still a process that must be followed,” Ms Muir said.
Not following the process can put employers in the wrong, even when they’re right about staff trying to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The owner of a food processing business in a small town was sure one of his staff was using drugs and it was endangering him at work. He called the police who arrested and charged the worker but he was let off on a technicality.
He applied for a benefit and was told he’d have to have a stand-down period. He then took action against his former employer for wrongful dismissal, the employer lost and had to employ the man again.
The worker carried on taking drugs, endangering himself and putting the food he was processing at risk.
The employer was concerned about the bad example it set for other workers and the risks to his business and was about to sack the worker when he left.