Drugs On The Job

Worried bosses are resorting to more workplace drug-testing and uncovering hundreds of drug-using Waikato workers – including a concerning amount testing positive for methamphetamine (also known as P).

Workplace drug testing in the Waikato more than tripled last year over 2009, according to statistics supplied by the New Zealand Drug Detection Agency. The company – one of the country’s biggest drug testers – performed 2864 workplace tests in the Waikato in 2010, up from 934 in 2009. Of those, 8 per cent tested positive to having drugs in their system – about 229 people in 2010 and 75 in 2009. The Waikato region was above the national average for both methamphetamine (also known as P) and amphetamine use.

In 2009 12 per cent of workers who tested positive to drug use had P in their system compared with 7 per cent nationally. In 2010 it was 9 per cent, compared with 6.7 per cent nationally. Cannabis made up 68 per cent of the positive tests. The prevalence of P in workplace tests came as no surprise to Foundation of Alcohol and Drug Education executive director Colin Bramfitt.

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Employment Court Finds Random Drug Tests by ‘Stealth’

The cases of Coca-Cola Amatil (NZ) Limited v Hooper and Patchett v Contour Roofing (awarding $4,000 and $15,000 compensation to employees, respectively) are timely reminders to employers of the importance of having a well-drafted alcohol and drug policy, and of adhering to procedural standards when carrying out testing. Recent figures from the New Zealand Drug Detection Agency show that drug screening in the workplace has almost doubled in the last 12 months in New Zealand. Employees may not be tested without “reasonable cause” and while random testing is permitted, it may only be carried out where it is expressly provided for in a company’s policy. Employers should ensure that their alcohol and drug policies: clearly set out the employer’s position on alcohol and drug use in the workplace, when testing may be carried out, and possible consequences of breaching policy; clearly indentify “safety sensitive areas”; and are properly promulgated in the workplace in consultation with employees (and unions if appropriate).

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Welfare Drug Tests May Break Privacy Law

New Zealand Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff says proposed welfare rules that require beneficiaries to take drug tests are potentially illegal. According to Shroff, a provision contained in the Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill that would require job candidates to take drug tests upon employers’ requests could violate employees’ privacy. Those who refuse to take the test, or repeatedly fail, will have their benefits cut or suspended. Currently, job candidates can decline to take a test without penalty. Job candidates “are not likely to challenge the legality of a drug test, as refusing to give consent would leave them at risk of having their benefit cut,” Shroff said. The new welfare regime would not even require employers to demonstrate drug testing was necessary, or even legal. The Human Rights Commission said in its submission that drug tests and sanctions had “human rights implications” and would be difficult to implement.

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Workplace Drug Testing Doubles

Employers are becoming more aware of the dangers of drugs and alcohol in the workplace as well as the benefits of testing for them. Recent statistics show that workplace drug testing in New Zealand has almost doubled in the past 12 months, particularly in the agriculture, construction, transportation, food processing, retail, and government sectors. Rick Lewer, the managing director for Drug Testing Services’ Manawatu division, says the growing popularity of workplace drug testing is the result of employers increasingly recognizing the benefits of testing. “It should reduce workplace accidents, lower staff turnover, increase productivity, and even raise staff moral,” said Lewer. He also noted that workers who test positive for drugs and alcohol are almost four times as likely to be involved in workplace accidents. While the number varies from company to company, 10 to 20% of employees will test positive, with marijuana being the most common drug present, followed by methamphetamine. Most companies currently use a three-pronged approach to deal with a staff member who tested positive: warning, rehabilitation plan and/or dismissal. Random testing may be carried out only where it is expressly provided for in a company’s alcohol and drug policy.

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EU Article 29 Data Protection Working Party finds New Zealand adequate

At their plenary session on 4-5 April, the EU Article 29 Data Protection Working Party adopted an Opinion that New Zealand’s data protection legislation provides an adequate level of protection in relation to the European Union Data Protection Directive. The WP noted that the New Zealand legislation preceded the Directive and was modeled on the OECD Guidelines. The Opinion now will be considered by the European Commission in making an official adequacy decision.

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Proposal to Have Privacy Officer to Implement Data Protection Law

New Zealand’s Assistant Privacy Commissioner Katrine Evans has suggested that Malaysia have privacy officers to implement the data protection law. A privacy officer is the person in an agency who can understand its business and, at the same time, help the agency get it right in handling personal information. “I don’t know whether Malaysia has the requirement for every agency to have a privacy officer but, if it doesn’t, you should have one,” she said when delivering her talk on ‘First Steps for a Data Protection Commissioner: Some Suggestions from New Zealand’ at the inaugural seminar on personal data protection. The seminar was opened by Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri DrRaisYatim, who announced the setting up of the Personal Data Protection Department under the ministry.

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Privacy Laws to be Overhauled

Justice Minister Judith Collins today announced the Government would repeal and re-enact the Privacy Act 1993 following a Law Commission report released last year, which made more than 100 recommendations. “Our current privacy law has been in place for almost 20 years and predates the creation of the internet,” Collins said. “Huge changes to technology and information flows have occurred during that time and they have overtaken our privacy laws.” “The foundations of the Act are sound, but it needs to be updated to reflect our changing attitudes and the way people, business and government use information in the 21st century.”

“Privacy is as important to people as it’s ever been. But the Act doesn’t always give people the protection they expect and need, particularly in the context of modern technology.”

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Privacy Commissioner Wants Power to Police ‘Data Brokers’
New Zealand’s privacy commissioner is seeking additional powers to monitor companies that collect and sell personal data. Assistant Privacy Commissioner Blair Stewart, said the current version of the Privacy Act clears the way for enforcement only after a complaint is filed, but many citizens do not know of the existence of “data brokers”. Data brokers collect publicly available information and personal details gathered by other means, including surveys doubling as prize giveaways. They may know details about you or your household, including ethnicity, property value, what foods you buy and how often you travel. The privacy commissioner has supported a Law Commission recommendation to update the law, giving the commissioner powers to serve compliance notices on organizations. The Government is expected to respond to the Law Commission’s recommendations next month.

“People don’t tend to complain about certain practices, if the sort of practices go on in the background and they can’t see what’s happening,” said Stewart.

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Adequacy Status a ‘Real Coup’ for Business

The European Commission has formally recognized the adequacy of the data protection regime in New Zealand, making it the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to receive such recognition. The EU Justice Commissioner noted the importance of high standards of data protection in boosting international trade; the annual value of trade in goods and services between New Zealand and the EU is €6.7bn and €3.1bn respectively. “The decision should be helpful to New Zealand businesses that trade with Europe or hope to do so as it substantially simplifies compliance with data protection requirements,” said Assistant Privacy Commissioner Blaire Stewart. “Global interoperability of privacy regulation has the twin underlying goals of creating a trustworthy environment and avoiding unnecessary barriers to cross-border information flows.” Australia is the only other country with a formal agreement with the EU, however this is in respect of the transfer of Passenger Name Records (PNR) only. Personal data may now be transferred from EU and EEA countries to New Zealand without the requirements of any further safeguards. The Commission’s decision establishes that all New Zealand companies in all circumstances can meet those European requirements.

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Report on the 2011 New Zealand Workplace Violence Survey

Some 96 organisations responded to the online 2011 Workplace Violence Survey conducted by Massey University which represents over 76,000 New Zealand employees (approx. 4% of the employed workforce). The survey respondent Was most frequently the organisation’s health and safety manager, advisor or coordinator.

Just over one–half of the organizations participating in the study reported cases of workplace violence, With a roughly even split between physical assault and property—related violence. A total of nearly 2500 cases of workplace violence were reported in 2009 by the 96 organisations participating in the survey. Highest incidence of workplace violence was reported for the attempted assault’ categories,while a total of 436 cases involved some form of physical injury (18% of all reported cases).

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Woman Sentenced Over Fake Security Course

A woman who ran a fake security course and pretended to be accredited to NZQA has been fined. ONE News uncovered the scam which involved students attending the fake college and getting false NZQA certificates at the end of it.

It is the first time such charges have been laid under the Education Act. “Offending like this really undermines the integrity of the process, particularly where the qualifications emulate genuine qualifications,” Judge Emma Aitken said. Maryann Vaafusuaga was ordered to pay a fine of $7000.

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Sex Offenders May Be Avoiding Detection
Sex offenders who have had their names suppressed could be avoiding detection because their crimes do not have to be revealed in their criminal records checks. The Ministry of Justice says about 400,000 applications for criminal records were made last year and the ministry is looking at the way its checks work to make sure they are operating properly. Sex offenders are often granted name suppression, because if they are a relative or are known to their victim, exposing who they are could easily identify the person they have abused. The ministry says both it and police can provide information about people’s criminal records. The ministry’s criminal record unit was set up to give people access to their own information and they can share this with prospective employers, but it should not be treated as a comprehensive security check. It says an approved list of employers who work with children or the elderly go through a police vetting procedure designed to flag risks that cannot be disclosed by the ministry.

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