A smoking ban has been in place in the UK since July 2007, preventing anyone from smoking indoors at work premises and other enclosed spaces. The ban applies to all substances that can be smoked, including cigarettes, herbal cigarettes, cigars and pipes – involving the burning of any substance.
Electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes give off a vaporised water-based mist, but do not burn any substances. This means that, strictly speaking, they’re not covered by the smoking ban. The increased use of e-cigarettes has prompted a government debate, and it seems that there are now plans to make it illegal to sell them to under 18s, or to adults on their behalf. With the growing use of e-cigarettes, this could be a good time to re-assess your workplace rules on smoking.
Here we’ll give you our answers to some of the common questions we’re currently being asked.
Do we have to provide a separate area for e-smokers?
Employees who want to stop smoking by using e-cigarettes may complain about having to use the same designated smoking area as those smoking tobacco cigarettes. However, the law does not require you to provide any smoking area for your staff.
If you choose to designate an area for tobacco smokers, as most employers do, you must make sure that it is legally compliant. It can’t be enclosed and the smoke must not be able to enter the rest of the workplace. The same rules do not apply if you decide to provide an area for the use of e-cigarettes. You will just need to consider where you site this area in relation to any smoking area.
One particularly robust option is to prohibit any type of smoking altogether in your workplace.
Non-smokers are complaining about the vapour from e-cigarettes in the office – what should we do?
The law does not stop you from banning the use of e-cigarettes at work. If you want to do this, it is best to have a written policy in place, so that there is no confusion over what is, and what is not, allowed. Any smoke-free policy, whether it extends to e-cigarettes or not, should apply to staff of all levels without exception and even to third parties such as customers, visitors and contractors.
Some of my e-smoking staff have complained that they don’t get as many breaks as tobacco smokers. What should I do?
As an employer, you are not obliged to allow smoking breaks in addition to the usual work-day breaks, and there is increasing evidence that they disrupt productivity and hinder performance.
If this is a problem for your business, you might wish to implement a policy that prohibits additional smoking breaks during the working day. This means that employees can only use e-cigarettes or smoke during their usual breaks and outside working hours. Some employers ask e-smokers and smokers to make up any time spent on additional breaks during work hours, but the success of this very much depends on the workplace environment, industry and culture.
If you would like to implement a policy for dealing with e-cigarettes in your business, get in touch and we’ll talk about how to build it into your employment contracts. Call us on 0118 940 3032 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.