Drug testing

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


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.

  • Work obligations

    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.

    We 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?

    We'll tell you if the job or training course needs a drug test before we refer you to it. You'll need to tell us straight away if you think you may not pass the drug test.

    Before you take the drug test, the person overseeing the test will explain the type of test they're using and how it works, and when you'll know if you've passed or not.

    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 is 98% accurate and shows within about five minutes if your urine has tested positive for drugs. Most employers will only do this type of test. It costs between $30 and $70. If you pass the drug test, you won't need to pay for it.
    2. An evidential test, which is 99.9% accurate and shows what type of drug and how much is in the sample. Your test sample would be sent away to a laboratory with the results being given to you some time later. It costs around $120. If you pass the drug test, you won't need to pay for it.

    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.

  • How a drug test is done

    You will usually give your urine sample in a specially prepared toilet area designed to ensure your privacy while keeping the sample safe from tampering or contamination. This will be done under strictly controlled conditions.

    As long as you pass the drug test, no further drug testing action will be taken as part of applying for that job.

  • Accepting a failed drug test

    If you fail a drug test, the person overseeing the test will:

    • discuss the result with you
    • ask you whether you accept the result, and confirm it if you do
    • ask you to sign a confirmation form agreeing to the result.
  • If you don't agree with the drug test result

    If you take the drug test and fail, the best time to discuss the results is straight away with the person doing the test.

    If as a result of that discussion it's decided to go for a further test to confirm the result, and that test also fails, you will need to pay for this test.

  • What happens if you 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've been referred to a suitable job or course and you fail the drug test.

    If you fail the drug test without a good and sufficient reason:

    • You'll have to repay Work and Income for the cost of the failed drug test. This cost will be taken out of your benefit in weekly payments.
    • The first time you fail, you'll have to agree to stop using drugs so you can pass a drug test in the future.
    • The second time you fail, you must pass another drug test within 25 working days;
      • Work and Income will talk to you about approved drug testing providers
      • you'll need to arrange the drug test
      • irrespective of whether you pass or fail the drug test, you'll need to meet the cost of the test
      • we can help you meet the costs of passing the drug test, which you'll then have to pay back from your benefit in weekly payments.
    • If you fail a third time, or if you don't take and pass a drug test within 25 working days, for 13 weeks your benefit will:
      • reduce up to half if you have dependent children, or
      • stop if you don't have dependent children.

    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 us 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'll 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 us 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.