With National Non-Smoking day approaching, we look at smokers rights to breaks and how businesses can accommodate smokers without penalising non-smokers in the workplace.

It’s always a controversial subject that can cause conflict amongst colleagues. Most offices will allow employees to take a quick smoking break, we’d advise having a policy in place so that it isn’t taken advantage of.

Legally there is no statutory right to a smoking break, employers are, however, legally required to give one rest break at work. This break must be a minimum of 20 minutes long and can be used for lunch, refreshments or a cigarette break. Companies may choose to allow staff additional smoking breaks if they start earlier and stay later to make up for time away from the job.

It’s your responsibility to remind staff that smoking is forbidden within workplace premises. Allowing staff to smoke on-site could result in the employee being fined up to £200. Failing to stop staff smoking in the workplace could result in a fine to the business of up to £2,500. Smoking areas can be provided, but if you do decide to provide one, it must comply with legislation.

As an employer, it is your responsibility to display “no smoking” signs in all vehicles and in the workplace. If you fail to display the signs, you could be fined £1,000. For more information, click here.

An area that is sometimes a bit grey is vaping/e-cigarettes. Employees may be under the impression that vaping doesn’t fall under “smoking” so it’s up to you to be clear on where your company stands. We would recommend including vaping in your policy to ensure transparency with your staff.

And finally, when it comes to recruiting, there are no laws or legislation to prevent employers from refusing to employ a smoker. However, we would suggest that you’d be cutting off your nose to spite your face if you declined an amazing candidate just because they were a smoker.

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