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UK Smoking Rules in and Out of the Office

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 29 Sep 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Smoking Ban Workplace Employees

Smoking in the office and in any UK workplace has been against the law since 2007. But some employers are laying down rules on smoking far beyond the requirements of the smoking ban.

Is Smoking Completely Prohibited in Workplaces?

Smoking is prohibited in the workplace in public areas that are enclosed. This can include whole enclosed and substantially enclosed areas. For example, smoking in public bars is prohibited but there may be outdoor areas such as partially enclosed outdoor balconies or gardens where smoking is permitted. But where private businesses are concerned the decision whether or not to permit smoking in partially enclosed outdoor areas will come under the discretion of the employer.

What Happens if an Employee is Caught Smoking at Work?

There are different steps an employee can take if an employee is caught smoking at work. The first step could simply be a reminder that they are breaking the law. The second step could be disciplinary procedure such as a warning with the offence noted in the employee’s file. The employer could be fined if they allow anyone to smoke on smoke free business premises. There have been actual cases where employers have dismissed people who have smoked on business premises and broken the smoking ban.

Who Enforces the Smoking Ban on Business Premises?

The employer should be the person who enforces the smoking ban. If there is suspicion of smoking on business premises with the permission of the employer then Environmental health officers can be called in to investigate. Fines for smoking in smoke free business premises can range from between £200 and £2500.

What Other Smoking Rules can Employers Implement?

It is becoming more common for employers to place certain restrictions on employees who do smoke. Some major businesses will not allow employees to smoke when they are wearing a business uniform. This also includes after or before work hours if employees are in uniform. Employers can also stipulate how far away from business premises employees must be before they can smoke. Employees have been disciplined and dismissed for breaking these stipulations.

Can Employees Refuse to Hire Smokers?

Although it does sound like discrimination it is not against the law for employers to refuse to hire smokers. Even if the employee claims they will not smoke during work hours the employer can still refuse to hire them. One employee in the UK was dismissed 15 minutes after being hired after employers found out that she smoked. This may seem like discrimination but employers are perfectly within their rights not to hire smokers.

Are the Smoking Rules Being Taken too Far by Employers?

Smoking has become a hot topic health issue in the UK. The consequences for breaking the smoking ban can be severe, especially for employers. Two luxury hotels in Scotland recently applied a rule that threatened employees with dismissal if they arrived at work and smelt of smoke. This rule applies to the hotel’s hundreds of members of staff and the rule does go well beyond the actual requirements of the smoking ban.

Are Business Vehicles Included in the Smoking Ban?

Smoking is also prohibited on public transport, taxis and business vehicles. Many employers have laid down rules that include no smoking in business vans outside of working hours. British Telecom have stipulated that 100,000 of their employees both in and outside of the UK are banned from smoking in any vehicle bearing the BT logo. Denbigshire council in Wales has implemented a smoking rule that bans all employees from smoking within working hours, even if they are smoking in their own cars.

Is a Complete Ban in and Out of Work Hours the Right Answer?

Banning employees with extreme measures such as ‘no smoking in uniforms outside of working hours’ does seem extreme. Although many employers are in favour of these extreme measure this type of blanket ban is causing stress in the workplace. It has been found that this type of stress has actually led to a decrease in efficiency and productivity in the workplace. Workplace smoking policy should be set out after rational decisions are made. The ideal scenario is that employers would consult employees to formulate a workplace smoking policy that actually works.

What Sort of Workplace Smoking Policy Could Work?

A blanket ban on smoking during work hours, outside of the business premises is not ideal. Many employees have been smoking for decades and are addicted. There is nothing to stop employers from identifying outdoor smoking areas and setting designated smoking breaks. Blanket bans should be considered as a last resort not the first option.

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[Add a Comment]
bones - Your Question:
I'm employed at a very well known car manufacturer where there are hundreds of smokers. We are given two 15 minute breaks (including walking time to canteens and smoking areas) on most shifts to eat and smoke. It takes me 4 minutes to reach the smoking area and as its obviously the same time back, that only leaves me with 7 minutes to smoke and eat. I have to rush as a result and often end up with indigestion which affects my work rate.Also, the shelter only has enough room for 2 people so most people get soaked if it's raining. Can this be right?

Our Response:
It's a little bit of a moral dilemma, as if employers gave smokers extra breaks then this would be discriminatory towards the non-smokers. Your only recourse is to speak to your employer directly and perhaps try to negotiate one half hour break instead of two 15-minute breaks. The same goes for the shelter, your employer or line manager may be able to help take this forward. You can also see more via the ACAS link here.
WorkEtiquette - 29-Sep-17 @ 3:55 PM
I'm employed at a very well known car manufacturer where there are hundreds of smokers. We are given two 15 minute breaks (including walking time to canteens and smoking areas) on most shifts to eat and smoke. It takes me 4 minutes to reach the smoking area and as its obviously the same time back, that only leaves me with 7 minutes to smoke and eat. I have to rush as a result and often end up with indigestion which affects my work rate. Also, the shelter only has enough room for 2 people so most people get soaked if it's raining. Can this be right?
bones - 29-Sep-17 @ 9:25 AM
Waiter - Your Question:
As the last main course went out tonight I asked my manager if it was alright if I popped out for a cigarette. As I cam back from the smoking break the head chef asked if I wore a jacket and threatened me in front of the whole kitchen team with disciplinary action simply because I didn't wear a jacket. Is this allowed?

Our Response:
Much depends upon whether it is specified in the terms and conditions of your contract that you have to do this.
WorkEtiquette - 24-Aug-17 @ 10:08 AM
As the last main course went out tonight I asked my manager if it was alright if I popped out for a cigarette. As I cam back from the smoking break the head chef asked if I wore a jacket and threatened me in front of the whole kitchen team with disciplinary action simply because I didn't wear a jacket. Is this allowed?
Waiter - 23-Aug-17 @ 12:39 AM
John - Your Question:
What do reckon ?? My daughter of 17 just been sacked for smoking on her break. but on company property. but she has never been informed of policy.is this correct.

Our Response:
She would have to read the terms and conditions of her employment contract and/or her employee handbook. If a ban is not specified in the terms of her contract or employee's handbook then she may have a case for unfair dismissal (dependent upon how long she has been in the job). If she thinks she has a case, she may wish to speak to ACAS.
WorkEtiquette - 29-Jun-17 @ 12:14 PM
Whatdoreckon ?? Mydaughterof17justbeensackedforsmokingonher break ... butoncompany property ...butshehasneverbeeninformedofpolicy..isthiscorrect ..
John - 27-Jun-17 @ 5:44 PM
I think that your comments are completely correct and employers should work with employees instead of against them. I recently started a role at a legal firm and it was only told to me on the second day when I asked if I could pop out for a cigarette that I wouldn't be able to leave. The next day I was brought into the office and had an amicable conversation with the solicitorbut unfortunately I had to leave my position.Within the conversation I asked if I could rearrange my lunch break so that I would have a lesser one and then two breaks either side.I was not allowed this and no agreement was made norCompromise . I was just told that it was a straight no.As a smoker Working 6hrs without a cigarette break is incredibly hard! I really do not understand the constant discrimination against smokersat this present time,it is completely ridiculous.
E.. - 26-Apr-17 @ 11:31 PM
I smoke before work. I do not have uniform or carry any company property. However my role is 'public facing'. I have been threatened with dismissal for smelling of tobacco smoke. Can I be dismissed? There have been no complaints from the public.
Cam - 16-Nov-16 @ 3:27 PM
Scared - Your Question:
Need advice. Raised concern with owner and seperatly with manager about EVERYONE smoking in the office, despite smoking being outlawed since 2007. Told if I didn't like it, I could leave and if I complained I would fail my probation and be fired. Also having concerns about rat and mice issues, the offices and warehouse ships boxed food product, which the packages show clear signs of rodent attack. Told to throw those away and send undamaged packets. Bottle boxes also eaten away, advised to tape over those, remove damaged packets and remove the mouse or rat poo. Lights not working in some area, meaning torch required during late afternoon, no smoke detectors or smash points and very large quantities of flammable liquids stored though the site. Staff often expected to work on their own in these difficult conditions. Don't want to lose my job, as I need the money, but scared I will end up dead. What can I do?

Our Response:
You can find out via the HSE link here. Also, businesses can be fined up to £2,500 if they don’t stop people smoking in the workplace or up to £1,000 if they don’t display ‘no smoking’ signs, please also see link here. I hope this helps.
WorkEtiquette - 3-Oct-16 @ 12:28 PM
Need advice.Raised concern with owner and seperatly with manager about EVERYONE smoking in the office, despite smoking being outlawed since 2007. Told if I didn't like it, I could leave and if I complained I would fail my probation and be fired. Also having concerns about rat and mice issues, the offices and warehouse ships boxed food product, which the packages show clear signs of rodent attack. Told to throw those away and send undamaged packets. Bottle boxes also eaten away, advised to tape over those, remove damaged packets and remove the mouse or rat poo. Lights not working in some area, meaning torch required during late afternoon, no smoke detectors or smash points and very large quantities of flammable liquids stored though the site. Staff often expected to work on their own in these difficult conditions. Don't want to lose my job, as I need the money, but scared I will end up dead. What can I do?
Scared - 2-Oct-16 @ 2:57 PM
angrymum - Your Question:
My student son works in hospitality. He told me that everyone gets their scheduled break entirlement. BUT smokers get an extra 2 quick smoke breaks. Non-smokers get nothing.What kind of message is this sending out to young people?Can my son request to quick fresh air breaks?Angrymum

Our Response:
Your son would have to bring the matter up with his line manager directly. The smoking breaks are at the discretion of your son's employer, but your son may wish to highlight the discrepancy. His employer should have a clear policy on smoking breaks and may have outlined this in your son's contract. It might be worth having a look before he approaches his boss.
WorkEtiquette - 19-Aug-16 @ 2:55 PM
My student son works in hospitality. He told me that everyone gets their scheduled break entirlement. BUT smokers get an extra 2 quick smoke breaks. Non-smokers get nothing. What kind of message is this sending out to young people? Can my son request to quick fresh air breaks? Angrymum
angrymum - 19-Aug-16 @ 10:39 AM
Willie - Your Question:
I am a strict non smoker having never smoked in my life. I go to extreme lengths to avoid being subjected to 'passive smoking.' I can become violently sick and will even reach when I smell stale nicotine on clothes, so I can sympathise with several readers. I think when it comes to the work place, the employers and management have a clear responsibility to their staff. Smokers should be encouraged to reduce their smoking and their should be a clear policy regarding smoking, not forgetting the law states no smoking within enclosed premises. A reasonable employer will help the staff to understand the consequences of breaking the non smoking rule and provide the appropriate punishment if the rule is broken. Continuous infringement of the law should result in dismissal.

Our Response:
Thank you for your comments I'm sure they will interest our readers.
WorkEtiquette - 6-May-16 @ 12:34 PM
I am a strict non smoker having never smoked in my life. I go to extreme lengths to avoid being subjected to 'passive smoking.' I can become violently sick and will even reach when I smell stale nicotine on clothes, so I can sympathise with several readers. I think when it comes to the work place, the employers and management have a clear responsibility to their staff. Smokers should be encouraged to reduce their smoking and their should be a clear policy regarding smoking, not forgetting the law states no smoking within enclosed premises. A reasonable employer will help the staff to understand the consequences of breaking the non smoking rule and provide the appropriate punishment if the rule is broken. Continuous infringement of the law should result in dismissal.
Willie - 5-May-16 @ 7:50 PM
I've sacked some one for smoking in a school play ground he sued me for on fair dismissal and won now I have to close the business to pay compo
Gonad - 14-Jan-16 @ 10:47 PM
I am and editor and work from home and a new neighbour has just moved in below me. She is also a journalist and mostly works from home and smokes incessantly. I find that I cannot stand being home with all the smoke drifting up and am considering renting an office. Can I charge her for that? Are there any rules against her smoking in our house, as it is being used also as a workplace 8 hours of the day? Many thanks for any help
coughinggirl - 22-Sep-15 @ 7:28 PM
Just ban smoking completely then we won't have to worry about restrictions in the work place because you wouldn't be able to do it anywhere.Smokers would need some phased assistance to quit though
AJ - 4-Aug-15 @ 4:25 PM
@Tudge - You don't say what you are doing or how long this work is due to last, therefore, I suggest in the first instance complaining directly to your employer. You could also give ACAS a call if you need any further advice.
WorkEtiquette - 3-Aug-15 @ 12:31 PM
I don't smoke but my work are now making me work in an outdoor smoking area. It is disgusting. Where do I stand as it has made me physically sick at times
Tudge - 31-Jul-15 @ 6:23 PM
@Lily - Smoking has been prohibited by law in virtually all enclosed and substantially enclosed workand public places throughout the United Kingdom since July 2007. If you firm doesn't comply with the smokefree law, they are committing a criminal offence and could face a large fine. You shouldn't have to subject yourself to this environment daily given that a) you are pregnant and b) it's against the law. At the same time I can understand your reticence as it is such a small firm and you are afraid of being victimised - so it's not a very nice position to find yourself in. I suggest you give ACAS a call on 0300 123 1100, they will give you some good advice. I also include a link to Smokefree England that gives more advice here. I hope this helps.
WorkEtiquette - 18-Nov-14 @ 10:20 AM
I am employed in a small family business that has six employees. My employer smokes in the office claiming that she is the owner and therefore has the right to smoke wherever she wants. One employeeasked her in the past to smoke outside and has been verbally abused as a result until she quit work. I hate cigarette smoke and am worried about the effect of second hand smoking. On top of that I am now pregnant so would like to avoid breathing smoke even more than before. The question is - is there anything that can be done which will not result in me losing my job or in my employer targeting me until I too decide that I cannot stay in that workplace? The other employees either smoke themselves or do not want to get involved. Thanks for any advice.
Lily - 16-Nov-14 @ 12:48 PM
Hi can you advise me please. We are a Hospice and request that vistors smoke outside of the premises near main gates. We wish to put up a cigarette holder for butts. Is there any restriction on the distance we need to erect this? We are getting a lot of cigarette ends left on pavement. Many thanks,
Dave - 9-Aug-13 @ 7:10 AM
If I read the above correctly , I CAN be sacked for refusing cessation assistance ????
joe - 24-Nov-12 @ 1:37 PM
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