An estimated 2.9 million* adults in the UK now use e-cigarettes but, how should employers treat the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace?
National No Smoking Day (Wednesday 14 March 2018) will see many smokers switch to vaping in a bid to kick the habit. While smoking in the workplace has been banned for over a decade, vaping falls outside of this legislation. Therefore, Howes Percival is urging employers have to have a clear written policy so there is no confusion over what is and what is not allowed in their workplace.
Paula Bailey, Partner and employment law expert at Howes Percival commented, “Millions of people in the UK now use e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes are battery operated devices that produce a vapour, including flavoured aromas, either with or without nicotine, rather than traditional smoke. Vaping and e-cigarettes fall outside of the legislation that outlaws smoking in the workplace therefore, it’s up to individual employers to decide on an approach which best fits their organisation.
“In deciding whether to stub-out or allow the use of e-cigarettes employers will need to take into account potential health and safety considerations as well as the ‘professional image’ of their organisation. Some health experts have questioned the safety of the chemicals used in e-cigarettes and their long-term effects are currently unknown. Employers would be well advised not to permit the use of e-cigarettes in the work place for these reasons.
“The vapours produced by e-cigarettes also risk creating an unpleasant work environment. Employers therefore need to consider whether allowing staff to use these devices may upset other workers. Additionally, e-cigarettes are designed to mimic cigarettes and their use in the workplace – particularly in customer-facing roles – may send an ambiguous message about an organisation’s approach to smoking. On the other hand, many people use e-cigarettes to help quit smoking and this may be something that employers want to support their employees in.”
Paula Bailey concluded, “Vaping in the workplace is a potentially divisive issue so, to avoid any unnecessary tensions, whatever approach an employer decides upon, they need to clearly outline and communicate their policy to their staff.”
In developing a policy on e-cigarettes, employers should consider:
- Updating their existing HR policy to include the use of e-cigarettes (if, when and where they can be used).
- Clearly explain that failing to adhere to the policy may result in disciplinary action.
- If a non-enclosed workplace area for conventional smokers is provided, also consider providing a separate non-enclosed area for employees to use e-cigarettes.
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has issued updated guidance on how employers should deal with e-cigarettes in the workplace, which can be found here.
Public Health England has recently issued guidance for employers which can be found here.