The penalty for smoking in the workplace
There is a legal ban on smoking in the workplace. Workplace policies regarding smoking vary depending on which industry you work in. Regardless, noncompliance with these smoking policies can lead to penalties for employees. Businesses that do not comply with the legislation can incur a fine or face closure in severe cases.
Legal risks of smoking in the workplace
Given smoke-free legislation, smoking in the workplace has legal implications. Most workplaces have their own policies on smoking at work. These policies are enforceable by employers and laid out in employee contracts. Employees have no choice but to adhere to these policies.
In addition to policies, legal frameworks also exist. These lay out non-smoking clauses in the workplace. They also limit any and all smoking to outdoor places. Non-compliance can result in penalties, fines and legal action by local authorities.
Fines for smoking in a workplace
Legally speaking, there is a penalty for smoking in the workplace. Fines are the most common type of penalty for non-compliance. Workplaces often have their own rules for smoking practices and smoke breaks. Employers should clearly communicate what the fines for not complying with policies are.
Fines for employees for smoking can range up to £200. These may not necessarily be the only penalty for smoking. Employers may also choose to write up employees found smoking. Repeated offences may lead to disciplinary action.
Not only that, but employers may also face penalties for their smoking policies. They must control smoking on work premises within a certain limit. Exceeding that limit can result in legal fines up to £2,500. A lack of adequate warning signs of no smoking around the workplace can also result in fines of up to £1,000.
Rules for smoking in the workplace
Legislation passed in July 2007 in England and March 2006 in Scotland, greatly limited smoking practices in workplaces. The aim was to make workplaces essentially smoke-free.
Under this legislation, all enclosed workplaces, public buildings and transport are declared smoke-free. This applies to all enclosed permanent structures, such as buildings, stores and hallways. It also applies to temporary enclosed structures, such as marquees.
The law no longer allows indoor smoke rooms or break rooms. Employees granted a smoke break by employers must do so outdoors. Essentially, all indoor areas are completely smoke free under this legislation.
Public health laws require smoke free workplaces. Therefore, employers have to take responsibility. The workplace must remain smoke-free by legal standards. Some of their duties and obligations include:
- Appropriate display of No Smoking signs around the workplace
- Eliminate indoor smoking rooms on work premises
- Ensure all staff are aware of smoke-free legislation
- Ensure staff comply with any and all smoke-free policies.
The process of creating a 100% smoke-free workplace may require some work. Employers can make it a smooth process by consulting staff in smoke-free policies. Some internal training regarding the legislation can also be offered to staff.
While all smoke policies have to meet legal requirements, consulting staff is a good idea. Such policies are designed to help curb first-hand and second-hand effects of smoking. Policies should consider the health of those affected by workplace smoking. At the same time, it should make considerations for those unable to quit smoking.
Responsibility falls on employees as well to maintain a smoke-free workplace. Employees are required to comply with and follow all workplace policies regarding smoking.
Employees must do their best to ensure that their colleagues also adhere to the policies. Such policies exist to protect the health of everyone involved. Should a smoke break be required, they should discuss it with their employers. Any and all smoke breaks must be taken outdoors.
Employees can also contribute to policy-making. Their contribution is important to developing policies that work for all. Becoming involved at this stage can create a good, healthy work environment. It also ensures that employers take care of everyone’s needs.
E-cigarettes (or vaping) at work
Smoke-free legislation, as originally drafted, did not include e-cigarettes. Smoking, as defined by the 2006 Act, creates smoke through burning tobacco. As e-cigarettes do not function that way, they do not fall under smoke prohibitions. Any legal penalty for smoking in the workplace does not apply to e-cigarettes.
No separate legislation exists for the use of e-cigarettes or vaping at work. While legal prohibitions do not exist, workplace policies may regulate their use. E-cigarettes are generally considered safer to use than cigarettes.
However, it is up to employers on how they would want to approach the situation. Some employers may outright prohibit their use in the workplace. Others may allow some regulated use. Workplace policies will determine whether you can use e-cigarettes or vape at work.
HSE and smoke-free legislation
The aim of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is to protect health and safety in the workplace. HSE is not legally responsible for enforcing smoke-free laws. They cannot enforce laws or bring action against non-compliance. However, the HSE does have a critical role to play.
HSE inspectors are dispatched to your workplace to determine health and safety standards. Inspectors may draw the employer’s attention in several non-compliance cases. These can include insufficient display of no-smoking signage around the workplace. It can even include too how many active smokers there are in the workplace. HSE will recommend immediate action from the employer to tackle the problem.
In the event that the employer does not act on the warning, other action may be taken. HSE can refer the case to local authorities who can take legal action. Action such as a penalty for smoking in the workplace can occur. Any persistent non-compliance will then be subject to legal action such as fines.
Smoking in work vehicles
The smoke-free legislation prohibits smoking in enclosed spaces as well as work related transports. This legislation also applies to work vehicles. This especially applies in case the vehicle is in use by more than one person
Vehicles in this legislation include any vehicles provided by the workplace. These include taxis, vans, buses, and any other transport vehicles used by more than one person.
While cigarette breaks are quite common, the law makes no provision for them. Employers are not legally obligated to provide smoke breaks or pay for them. Regardless, many workplaces accept smoke breaks as a norm if work is not hindered.
Legally, employees must offer a paid 20 minute break for every six hours of work. With the break being legally mandated, it can be used however an employee wishes. Many employees break up their 20 minute break into shorter, multiple smoking breaks. Most employers generally accept and understand this practice in the workplace.
However, there is no legal requirement for providing employee smoke breaks. If an employer wishes, they can ban smoke breaks entirely from the workplace.
Outdoor smoking areas
Employers are not legally required to offer smoke breaks. In the same way, they do not have to provide designated smoking areas for employees. In such a case, employees will be required to leave the premises when taking a smoke break. Even during a permitted break, smoking on work premises would not be allowed.
Some employers may still offer some designated smoking areas to employees. In that event, such an area must comply with smoke-free legislation. It should be outdoors not indoors, and away from other employees, entrances or work equipment.
In the case of vaping and e-cigarettes, some employers may outright ban them. Some may allow their use, but not on workplace premises. In this case, you may use designated smoking areas for the purpose if available. If not, you can only use an e-cigarette or vape outdoors according to workplace policies.
The benefits of having a smoke-free workplace
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has found smoking to be very costly. It accounts for over $1 trillion in lost productivity and healthcare globally. A consistent rise has also been seen in tobacco-related deaths globally. Not only does smoking place an individual’s life at risk, it also poses risk to others.
A smoke-free workplace is a very healthy goal to set. It can substantially reduce the risk of lung cancer from direct or second-hand smoke. It also reduces the risk of other diseases, such as stroke and respiratory infections. Overall, it protects the health and well-being of employees.
Additionally, with fewer or no smoke breaks, productivity may increase. Employees that dont smoke are also more likely to take fewer sick days caused by their smoking habits.