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Paula Bennett

28 August, 2012

Pre-employment drug testing for jobseekers

Beneficiaries with work expectations will face sanctions if they refuse to apply for drug-tested jobs, says Social Development Minister Paula Bennett. 

“Welfare reforms are resetting expectations and obligations and recreational drug use is simply not an acceptable excuse for avoiding available work.”

Under the current welfare system an unemployment beneficiary can decline to apply for an available drug-tested job, because they won’t pass the test, without consequence.

“Illegal drug use should not get in the way of getting a job if you are on a benefit,” says Mrs Bennett.

“Thousands of working New Zealanders are in jobs requiring they be clean of drugs; it’s reasonable to expect someone looking for work to do the same.”

Under welfare reforms coming into effect next year, it will be made clear to those on benefits with any work expectations that they must remain drug free in order to be able to take up suitable work opportunities.

This policy only applies to those with a work expectation attached to their benefit and only for available work opportunities requiring drug tests.

“Around 40 percent of the jobs listed with Work and Income require drug tests and it’s reasonable for employers to expect people to be drug free.”

Those on benefits with full or part-time work obligations will be sanctioned if they refuse job opportunities which require a drug test or if they fail a test.

Work and Income will reimburse employers for test failures and those who fail a test will have to pay back the cost out of their benefit.

“People will be given a warning and reasonable period of time to stop using drugs before having to take another drug test. But further failures will result in benefit reduction and possible cancellation,” says Mrs Bennett.

Where people fail a drug test or refuse to apply for a drug tested job, they must agree to stop using drugs or their benefit will be cut by 50 percent. They will be given 30 days to allow any drugs they have taken to leave their system.

Where they fail a test or refuse a second time, they will have their benefit suspended until they agree that they will provide a ‘clean’ drug test within 30 days. If they do not do this their benefit will be cancelled.

People with addiction will be supported to get help with their dependency while those on some prescribed medications will be exempt.

“Too many beneficiaries are missing out on job opportunities because of recreational drug use and that’s just not acceptable,” says Mrs Bennett.

Experts will carry out robust clinical assessments to determine whether people are recreational users or have a drug dependency.

The new pre-employment drug test requirements come into effect in July 2013.