We recommend that our business clients have a suite of company policies to not only ensure compliance with legislative requirements, such as workplace health and safety, but also to communicate to employees the standards the business requires of staff.
Clear and tailored policies can help to create the culture you desire within your workplace and assist to maintain a consistent high quality of performance. In some circumstance, workplace policies can also protect your business from legal claims.
In Sharp v BCS Infrastructure Support Pty Ltd [2015] an unfair dismissal claim was brought by a former employee of a company whose services included servicing of equipment at Sydney Airport, including aerobridges and baggage carousels. This role was considered safety critical under aviation regulations.
The employee, Mr Sharp, was informed on Monday morning that he would be subject to a random drug test, at which time he admitted that he smoked some marijuana on Saturday night with friends. Mr Sharp was not stood down at that time, but was subsequently subject to disciplinary action and then dismissed when the test results came back and showed cannabinoids well in excess of the allowable level under the employer’s drug and alcohol policy.
Mr Sharp argued that the dismissal was unfair as he was not shown the actual test results at the time of the disciplinary meeting, and there were mitigating factors submitted by the employee.
Ultimately the Fair Work Commission found that the worker was in breach of the drug and alcohol policy. The Commission considered circumstances where there was no direct test available to assess the level of impairment suffered by a person under the influence of cannabis, and found that a strict, zero-tolerance policy was reasonable in a safety critical role. For this reason, the Commission held the dismissal arising from the breach of that policy was reasonable.
This case highlights the importance of having relevant, clear and, where necessary, strict policies in business to ensure high standards and to justify dismissal if required.
If you would like to discuss what workplace policies may help to protect your business, or if you would like a review of your current policies, please contact a member of our Employment Law Team.