Stubbing out smoking at work

Peter
Etherington, helpline manager at Croner Consulting, answers the questions most
commonly asked by employers about workplace smoking policies

Lighting
up in the workplace is becoming something of a headache for employers according
to the latest reports from Croner Consulting.

The
employment and safety specialists talk to hundreds of employers every day, and
information on smoking policies is increasingly becoming an area of concern.

Peter
Etherington, the helpline manager at Croner, said businesses are looking for
advice prior to the approved code of practice on passive smoking at work being
published.

"Many
businesses are concerned that they are doing the right thing by all employees
and look to us for help and advice when drafting new policies and
procedures," he says.

Here,
Croner offers the answers to the most frequently asked questions by employers
about workplace smoking.

Q:
Do employees have a legal right to complain about working in a smoky
environment?

A:
In a word, yes. In the case of Waltons & Morse v Dorrington, 1997, IRLR
488, a legal secretary successfully claimed constructive dismissal when she had
to work in a smoky environment.

The
employee was a non-smoker and although she worked with other secretaries who
did smoke, this did not cause her a problem until a designated smoking area was
created next door to her office.

The
employee raised her concerns on several occasions with her employer without
success and eventually claimed constructive dismissal. The Employment Appeal
Tribunal held that there was a breach of the implied term of the contract that
an employer will provide and monitor for staff ­– so far as is reasonably
practicable  – a working environment
which is reasonably suitable for the performance of their contractual duties.

Q:
How should we go about introducing a ‘no smoking’ policy?

A:
The options open to you as an employer are to introduce a total ban on smoking
indoors, ban smoking in all areas apart from a designated smoking room, or to
allow smoking in individuals’ private offices, but ban smoking in other areas.
It is good practice to consult with staff about the options, particularly if
there are a large number of smokers.

Introduce
the changes after a period of time, such as three months. This will enable
employees to reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke, or to readjust the
times when they smoke. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) suggests that
employers may also wish to encourage their staff to see their local GPs for
advice on giving up smoking completely.

Q:
What should we do about cigarette breaks?

A:
In considering a no-smoking policy, employers must stress what is acceptable
behaviour in terms of taking cigarette breaks outside a non-smoking office.

Designate
areas outside where staff are allowed to smoke. Factory operatives and shop
workers are usually restricted to smoking only in designated rest breaks, and
this should be stipulated in the firm’s smoking policy.

Managerial
employees, who often work long and flexible hours according to the needs of the
business, are usually given a degree of freedom over taking breaks. But if
there is a concern over the amount of time taken, the employer will need to set
out requirements in a policy.

www.cronerconsulting.co.uk

By Ross Wigham

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