Since 2007 smoking in public places and enclosed work spaces has been banned in the UK, which seems to have contributed to a decline in smoking throughout the country.
However, there are still over 9 million British adult smokers, so it’s more than likely that there are a couple of smokers in your business – does your company have a policy in place for these employees?
Although there is no legal obligation to provide facilities or breaks for employees who smoke, your workplace must have a clear policy in place which needs to be included in your employee handbooks so that all workers are aware of the law and your specific company procedures for smokers.
If you would like some further advice on smoking in the workplace, or you require some support with writing up your policy, then please call us on 0845 2626 260
What does the law say about smoking in the workplace?
The UK law on smoking in the workplace is very clear; it’s completely prohibited and workers who are found smoking can be fined up to £200.
Employers also have a duty to enforce this law by displaying ‘no smoking’ signs around the premises (you could face a fine of £1000 otherwise) and not providing any staff smoking rooms since smokers must go outside.
There are also laws in place when it comes to company vehicles. If a work vehicle is used by more than one person, then smoking is forbidden in that vehicle.
As you can see, the main aim of the Smoke Free Legislation is to protect those who don’t smoke from the health dangers of second-hand smoke inhalation.
Bear this in mind when writing up your policy as it needs to consider both the health and safety of the employees who smoke and those who do not.
It is important to note that Smoke Free Legislation does not include vaping/e-cigarettes, so it is up to you, the employer, as to how you wish to incorporate this into the policy.
It needs to be mentioned though as there are approximately 3 million vapers in the UK and this figure continues to grow year on year.
Are your employees entitled to smoke breaks?
There is no statutory right to smoke breaks in the UK, but all employees are entitled to one rest break of at least 20 minutes for working in excess of six hours. Therefore, your employee may choose to use this agreed break time to go off site and smoke (if there is no smoking area provided outside on the premises).
Many workplaces are quite flexible when it comes to breaks for smokers and allow employees to pop outside throughout the day with some close monitoring to ensure that breaks are not too frequent or too lengthy.
If you choose not to allow additional breaks for smokers then this must be clearly outlined in your policy.
What does your smoking policy need to include?
A smoking policy need not be too extensive, but it is important that you ensure any rules you put in place are fair to both those who smoke and those who don’t.
The main points your smoking policy will need to cover are:
- When smokers can and cannot smoke
You may ask that they only smoke during their agreed breaks such as lunch or that they are allowed two additional breaks at any time during the day. Alternatively, you can state that smoking is strictly forbidden during working hours.
You also need to ensure that breaks are staggered to reduce excessive socialising on breaks and to make sure that cover is maintained in each department.
- Rules around smoking breaks
Not only should you set time restrictions for any smoking breaks that you do allow, i.e. five minutes maximum, but you may find that setting up a procedure for these breaks enables you to monitor them closely and ensure that employees are not abusing this benefit.
One simple example could be that employees must notify their line manager when they are going on a smoking break.
- Where smoking is permitted
Although everyone should be aware that it is illegal to smoke in an enclosed / public space, this should be reiterated in your smoking policy.
You also do not have to provide an area for smokers, especially if you are trying to prohibit smoking during working hours. However, if you are more relaxed about smoking whilst at work then it is beneficial to have a smoking shelter or area on the premises that is easily accessible, clearly signposted and not endangering others.
If you do choose to provide a smoking shelter, then please be aware that less than 50% of the total wall area must be enclosed.
- The rules on smoking in company cars
Less people are aware of the law regarding smoking in company vehicles, so you should clearly state that it is illegal and strictly prohibited for employees to smoke inside a company car if it is used by another person. Businesses also have a responsibility to display ‘no smoking signs’ in said vehicles.
- How your policy applies to vaping/e-cigarettes
It is important to have some mention of vaping in your smoking policy and the best approach is to treat it as you would smoking to avoid any accusations of bias from your employees. Hence, a general statement explaining that this policy applies to all forms of smoking, including e-cigarettes, will suffice.
- Tidiness of smoking area
Employees who use the smoking area must also accept responsibility of keeping the area tidy i.e. not throwing cigarette buts on the floor but putting them in the bins provided. This could become a major health and safety hazard if not looked after correctly as there have been cases where people have not put out their cigarette before putting it in the bin and it has caused a fire.
- The consequences of breaching these smoking rules
As with any workplace policy, you should provide details on the action that will be taken should an employee be found to breach any of the aforementioned rules.
For example, if a worker is taking too many smoking breaks every day or they are smoking in a non-permitted area of the premises, you can reprimand them with an initial verbal warning which could lead to a disciplinary process if this warning goes ignored.
You also have the right to withdraw smoking breaks on an individual or mass basis should their be any abuse of your company policies.
If you would like to speak to a professional HR consultant regarding smoking at work or any other HR policies and issues, then call us today on 0845 2626 260