Employers must be clear on vaping policy, says employment law specialist

Mar 10, 2018

An estimated 2.9 million adults have turned to e-cgarettes and law firm 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, Howes Percival partner and employment law, says: "Millions of people in the UK now use e-cigarettes.  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.”

  • Pictured: Paula Bailey

E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that produce a vapour, including flavoured aromas, either with or without nicotine, rather than traditional smoke. 

"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,” says Paula.

“Some health experts have questioned the safety of the chemicals used in e-cigarettes and their long-term effects are currently unknown.”
For these reasons, employers would be well advised not to permit the use of e-cigarettes in the work place, she adds. 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." 

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.

Paula Bailey says: "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."  

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