Cigarette Breaks – 8 facts Employers need to know

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For many employers the law can seem a bit unclear as to the length and frequency of smoking breaks that employees are entitled to. As an employer you are also obliged to abide by the smoking legislation, which could result in an expensive fine if not followed to the letter.

To help employers establish robust policies and procedures for smoking breaks, as well as ensuring compliancy with the smoking legislation, Croner’s experts have put together this simple guide.

Ciggie Time: 8 Facts for Employers

Fact 1: There is no statutory right to ‘smoking breaks’. But employees are legally permitted to one ‘rest break’ while at work – this can be for anything from a tea break, to a lunch break, as well as a cigarette break. The break must be at least 20 minutes long, as long as your employee has worked six hours or more that day. As an employer you can offer additional breaks, which should be included in your employees’ contract or handbook.

Fact 2: As an employer you are not legally obliged to pay for break times and whether you do is at your discretion. You should detail your arrangements in your terms of employment.

Fact 3: Smoking is forbidden within workplace premises, however organisations are allowed to have ‘smoking areas’. If you provide a smoking shelter for your employees it must comply with the associated legislation. If your employees do smoke in your workplace they could be fined up to £200 (or up to £50 in Scotland). Businesses which do not stop people from smoking in the workplace can be fined up to £2,500.

Fact 4: As an employer you must display ‘no smoking’ signs in all workplaces and vehicles. If you are an employer in Wales the signs must be in both Welsh and English. If you do not display ‘no smoking’ signs your business could be fined £1,000.

Fact 5: Vaping falls outside of the Smoke Free Legislation, as the act of smoking requires a substance to be burnt. As a result it is up to you, as the employer, whether you choose to allow or ban e-cigarettes, and similar products, in the workplace.

Fact 6: If a work vehicle is used by more than one person then smoking is prohibited within the vehicle. This is regardless of whether your employees are in the vehicle at the same time. Smoke-free vehicles must display a no-smoking sign in each part of the vehicle in which people can travel.

Fact 7: If your employees work from home and there is more than one person, who doesn’t live on site, who uses part of the dwelling solely as a place of work – that part must be smoke-free. It must also be smoke-free if members of the public attend to deliver or receive goods or services.

Fact 8: Residential care homes and hospices can offer smoking rooms, but these can only be used by residents. These rooms must be well ventilated and smoke must not get into other rooms. There does, however, remain a ban on staff and visitors smoking within the Care Home and therefore a suitable outdoor area should be designated. The legislation does not cover domiciliary care, where care is provided in a private home, in these circumstances Company policy should provide guidance to carers to ensure service users are allowed to follow a preferred lifestyle, but safeguards the health of everyone that does not smoke or does not want to breathe the smoke of others.

MIA members benefit from FREE advice from Croner.  Email alice@mia.org.uk or call 01403 800500 for the exclusive Business Support Helpline scheme number.

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