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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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