Pre-employment drug testing factsheet

Information about drug testing and what it means when you are searching for work and receiving a benefit.

Beneficiaries with work obligations are required to take and pass a drug test where an employer or training provider asks for one as part of the application process for a suitable job.

Jobs and drug testing

When you apply for a job some employers will need you to pass a pre-employment drug test as part of them employing you.

Workplaces have to provide a safe working environment for their employees. For many jobs drug testing may be necessary if an employee's ability to do their job can impact on the safety of others.

Pre-employment drug tests are common in industries such as fishing, horticulture, transport and forestry.

What is changing?

If you have work obligations and a potential employer requires you to pass a drug test, you have to take and pass the test.

This also applies to employment-related training where a training provider uses drug tests as part of the admission process. For example, a drug test is required as part of a course to get a heavy truck licence.

Work and Income will tell you what you have to do when you apply for a benefit and again when you need to be tested.

What does drug testing involve?

Drug tests are completed under a national drug testing standard. There are two types of tests, both usually needing a urine sample:

  1. A screening test which shows if drugs are present.
  2. An evidential test completed by an accredited laboratory which shows the type of drug and the amount present.

Most employers will only do the first screening test as this generally provides them with enough information to make a decision on whether to employ you or not.

What happens if I fail a drug test?

You can fail your pre-employment drug test obligations if:

  • a suitable job is available and you tell us you can’t apply as you think you will fail the drug test
  • you refuse to take the drug test for a suitable job
  • you have been referred to a suitable job or course and you fail the drug test.

If you fail to take and to pass a drug test without a good and sufficient reason:

  • The first time you do this, you will have to agree to stop using drugs so that you can pass a drug test.
  • The second time you do this, you will have to agree to take and pass a clean drug test within 25 working days.

If you don’t take and pass a clean drug test within 25 working days your benefit will reduce up to half (if you have dependent children) or stop (if you have no dependent children) for 13 weeks.

As long as you are still entitled to it, your benefit can be restarted earlier if you agree to take part in an approved activity for at least six weeks.

Who pays for the drug test?

If you have been referred to a job and you fail the drug test, you will have to repay Work and Income for the cost of the failed test.

This cost will be taken out of your benefit in weekly instalments.

We will always tell you this before you have a test.

If you fail a drug test a second time, we can help you meet the cost to get a clean test. You will have to pay us back for this.

Is everyone with work obligations sent for jobs that are drug tested?

Many employers expect all people applying for a job to pass a drug test. Around 40 per cent of jobs listed with Work and Income require applicants to pass a pre-employment drug test.

There are some circumstances where you will not be sent to jobs that need you to take and pass a drug test. This includes if we know that you are:

  • dependent on drugs
  • undergoing or waiting for drug treatment, or
  • taking prescription medication that could cause you to fail a drug test.