E-cigarettes and Work

E-cigarettes and Work

E-cigarettes and Work

E-cigarettes – are they covered by the workplace smoking ban? And what are the other work-related implications of the law banning smoking?

Smoking in all enclosed public spaces, including offices, was banned in England back in 2007. Your company cannot therefore allow smoking in any part of its buildings, even in designated smoking rooms.

Your company may have erected smoking shelters outside, perhaps to avoid smokers all congregating by the front door and forcing staff and visitors to walk through a cloud of smoke before entering the building. However, there is no legal obligation to provide a smoking shelter for employees. If a shelter is provided, no more than 50% of the total wall area of the shelter can be enclosed, otherwise the shelter then becomes an ‘enclosed public space’.

If you work at home, you are entitled to smoke unless your home is used as a place of work by more than one person, or members of the public might visit you at home as part of your work.

You don’t have a legal entitlement to a smoking break on top of your usual lunch break – whether designated ‘smoke breaks’ are granted is entirely at your company’s discretion. Your employer is simply required to allow you a rest break of at least 20 minutes during every day on which you work for at least six hours, and this break can then be used for meals and/or smoking.

You cannot smoke in a company car if it might be used by more than one person.

Use of electronic cigarettes in the office is not prohibited by the smoke-free legislation. However, while the law permits you to ‘vape’ on an e-cigarette whilst at your desk, your company is perfectly entitled to impose its own ban on use of these, in the same way it might ban you from bringing alcohol onto the premises, or stop you eating at your desk. E-cigarettes could be an irritant to your colleagues, especially in an open plan office, and there could be as yet unknown health hazards associated with e-cigarettes.

Your employer has the right to take disciplinary action against you if you break the law, or if you contravene the company’s own smoking policy, so if you are a smoker, make sure you know what’s permitted and what isn’t.

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