Sticking points emerge in new ATO drug and alcohol staff policy

By Jackson Graham

January 24, 2022

an Australian Tax Office overhead street sign
The ATO is consulting with staff over its dugs and alcohol policy. (AAP Image/April Fonti)

The Australian Taxation Office is consulting with staff over a new drug and alcohol policy that it says will help employees who could be struggling with addiction; the public sector union argues there are “flaws” in the policy. 

The policy could refine expectations for managers to report if they believe an employee is impaired. 

A spokesperson for the tax office said the agency was consulting over the draft policy to “meet the evolving needs of a modern workplace”, and highlighted similar policies were “common throughout the economy”. 

“They function to both assure employers that risks are being managed, to protect fellow employees and to support employees that may be struggling with addiction,” the spokesperson said. 

Community and Public Sector Union’s deputy national secretary Beth Vincent Pietsch said the union was seeking changes to the policy and its wording. 

“There are a number of flaws in the new policy,” Pietsch said. 

“While the CPSU recognises that the list of ‘behavioural indicators that someone might be impaired by alcohol and/or drugs’ used to identify an impairment is meant as a guide only, it should be noted that in most instances managers are not trained health care professionals.

“The CPSU has previously assisted members reporting a manager has decided they are impaired by employing poor judgement. Checks and balances must be instituted to support good decision-making.” 

Another sticking point is how the policy will apply in different states and territories that can have different approaches to some substances. 

“The CPSU is seeking to understand how the ATO would manage this; for example, if an employee on a medical cannabis trial needed to travel to another state for work,” Pietsch said. 

“This policy does not consider the use of prescribed medications that are used for an ongoing medical condition that requires medication that may impair staff.”

The ATO’s spokesperson said they would not comment further while consultation was underway. 


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