Drug helpline gets 20 calls a month from WA bosses over employee drug use

Office worker dialing handset

A HELPLINE for WA bosses grappling with drug abuse in the workplace is receiving 20 calls a month, with many revolving around their workers’ use of methamphetamine.

The WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s employee relations advice centre answered a steady stream of about five drug-related calls a week from employers seeking advice on how to tackle drug use, a similar number to those received in 2016.

As the extent of the State’s ice epidemic took full grip, there has been about a fivefold increase in drug-related calls to this hotline since 2012.

CCI chief executive Deidre Willmott said the bulk of calls came from businesses in “high-risk industries”, including mining, construction and manufacturing, workplaces “where the effects of drugs and alcohol ... could be catastrophic”.

She said drugs in the workplace, particularly the use of methamphetamine, continued to be a serious concern for employers because it threatened safety.

“Employers have told the CCI about experiences of erratic and aggressive behaviour towards co-workers, irrational behaviour resulting in mistakes being made, significant drops in productivity and frequent, unexplained absenteeism when abuse of drugs or alcohol is occurring,” Ms Willmott said.

She called for the Fair Work Act to be changed to give employers discretion to choose the most suitable drug testing method and to recognise the obligations employees have to maintain a safe workplace.

“Employers are wanting to be pro-active by putting appropriate processes in place to help their employees ... but in those instances where they are unable to do so, they should be able to dismiss these employees without facing risk of unfair dismissal claims,” she said.

It is understood some hotline inquiries have been about drug dealing in the workplace, rather than drug use.

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