Back in November we wrote about a Japanese company who were in the news for giving non-smokers extra holiday to make up for the time that colleagues spent smoking at work.

It’s a lot to ask for a small employer to do the same, but smoking breaks can cause disruption and hostility from non-smokers and it can affect small businesses just the same.

Smoking was banned in most workplaces in 2007. Many employers introduced policies stating their rules on smoking. Some employees still sneak out of work to smoke and even if you turn a blind eye, it’s likely your non-smoking staff have noticed and aren’t too happy about it.

No right to smoking breaks

There is no legal right to take extra smoking breaks.

All adult workers are entitled to a minimum rest break of twenty minutes if they work more than six hours in a day. This break (and any additional breaks you give staff) can be for smoking – but that’s it. Staff are not entitled to extra time off to smoke.

What can you do?

Set out the rules. A policy will help, outlining:

  • when smoking can take place
  • where smoking is permitted on work premises (if at all)
  • how the rules apply to company vehicles
  • how the rules apply when at a third party’s premises
  • the consequences of breaching the rules

What about e-cigarettes?

The 2007 ban does not cover e-cigarettes. Employers can allow staff to vape e-cigarettes at work, but it’s rare. Some employers think that vaping presents a bad image and others find the water vapour clouds annoying.

There is the added problem that treating e-cigarette smokers differently to tobacco smokers could cause further conflict at work.

The best option is to apply the same rules to e-cigarettes and cigarettes (and any other ways people smoke). Either update your current smoking policy to include e-cigarettes or introduce a separate policy.

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