Many employers have policies and prohibitions on smoking in the workplace. In most cases this is based on legal requirements. Many employers also offer support for employees to kick the smoking habit. There are a vast range of methods to help individuals, and the rise of the use of the e-cigarette won’t have gone unnoticed.
E-cigarettes or electronic cigarettes are devices that use a heating element that heats a liquid solution (which contains nicotine) and release a vapour. They are designed to simulate smoking. As they do not contain a combustible material that is actually smoked, it would seem they are not covered by the legislation banning smoking in smoke-free areas, such as workplace and public buildings and work vehicles.
Current workplace policies probably won’t cover the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace. But there are issues to consider. For example, what do you do with the employee who is using their e-cigarette at their desk?
It seems employers are taking different approaches to the use of the e-cigarette at work. Some seem to turn a blind eye to use in the workplace, whilst others are allowing it only in the designated areas, with a complete ban on their use elsewhere.
Employers are free to introduce rules about the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace. Employers have a duty to protect the welfare of staff and it seems likely that a workplace rule on e-cigarettes would fall within this. This would ideally be done as part of the no smoking policy.
It will be important to ensure staff are aware of the rules. Employers may also consider consulting with employees about any proposed rules, as this will help encourage staff to comply or ‘buy in’ to them. For example, staff may want to have a separate area for e-cigarette use away from any designated smoking area, as many e-cigarettes users are trying to quit smoking and don’t want the temptation!
Excessive e-cigarette breaks can be dealt with as for smoking breaks i.e. via the disciplinary policy and procedure. Our previous article on smoking at work can be found here.
Do you need help with drafting a policy on e-cigarettes? Please contact any member of the Pure Employment Law team (01243 836840 or [email protected]).