Smoking at work – five faqs

Sep 7, 2015 | Good Management

While the smoking ban has had the effect of reducing smoking in the UK, clearly there are many who still choose to smoke. This is a personal choice however there are several issues relating to smoking and the workplace which we frequently get asked about.

Do I need to allow staff to take smoking breaks?

No you don’t. Staff frequently popping out for a cigarette can be disruptive to the team and affect productivity and performance. There is also a risk that staff who do not smoke feel hard done by and as though smokers get more time off work. One answer to this is to specify breaktimes so that all staff get the same breaks, and of course smokers can use theirs to smoke if they wish.

Should I offer support to those wanting to give up smoking?

You are not obliged to do this, but of course it benefits you as an employer if your staff are healthy so you may want to do something. Initiatives can range from providing contact details for the various smoking cessation support organisations and groups all the way through to paying for counselling, depending on the financial resources available to you.

Do company cars have to be smoke-free?

If company cars are used for work by more than one person (not at the same time) then they need to be smoke free. Cars which are primarily for private use (including those financed with a car allowance as opposed to provided by the employer) do not fall under the smoke-free legislation. However as there is always likely to be even a slight possibility of other persons using or being carried in a company car, as well as for reasons of corporate image, it probably makes sense to mandate that all company cars are smoke free.

My staff visit clients in their own homes but some of the clients smoke, what should I do?

Private premises are not covered by smoke-free legislation and this includes private homes being visited by workers performing care work, domestic duties, maintenance or similar. However you do have a general duty of care towards your staff in terms of providing a safe and appropriate working environment so you should consider what steps you can reasonably take to minimise the impact of client smoking on your staff, particularly on those especially at risk such as pregnant women or employees with asthma or other relevant medical conditions.

Staff are smoking outside the front door of our building, can I do anything about it?

There’s nothing in the smoke-free legislation prohibiting people from smoking just outside the door of a building, however clearly there is an issue of your corporate image, and of providing a pleasant environment as staff and visitors access your premises. You may therefore want to instigate a rule about smoking outside the front door, and should consider combining this with providing a designated smoking area at the rear of the property or somewhere suitable.

If you would like to discuss any issues relating to smoking in the workplace, do get in touch.