Vaping in the workplace
Do you allow Vaping in the workplace?
Since the smoking ban came into force in 2007 there has been a steady increase of people turning to alternative means to keep their nicotine cravings calm in public spaces. More recently many are ditching the patches and gum and picking up pen-like devices known as e-cigarettes. This post explains what an e-cigarette is and what vaping in the workplace means for employers.
What Are E-Cigarettes?
E-cigarettes are battery powered gadgets generally designed for people wishing to give up smoking. The device vaporises water-based liquids, much like an inhaler. Whilst an unscented smoke-like steam is released, no harmful toxins are emitted. Use of an e-cigarette is colloquially known amongst its biggest fans as ‘vaping’.
Vaping is becoming an every-day occurrence in the workplace, where groups of employees huddling together trying to ‘light up’ in the pouring rain are becoming a thing of the past.
What Does Vaping In The Workplace Mean For Employers?
The legislation prohibiting smoking in the workplace defines smoking as lit tobacco or any other substance that can be smoked when lit. E-cigarettes emit an aerosol that users inhale or ‘vape’ and this is produced from a heated solution containing nicotine. Employers cannot therefore rely on the legislation or their own policies that prohibit smoking to control the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace or to take disciplinary action for using e-cigarettes.
Despite there been little guidance on offer regarding the use of e-cigarettes, vaping is certainly sparking up debate. Whilst some employers will be happy that their workforce is no longer nipping out for a regular fag break, many will be taking the opinions of their clients into consideration when deciding which side of the fence to sit on.
Certain industries, such as those where employees are customer facing or work with children, have been invoking disciplinary action for those caught vaping in the workplace, with some employees even facing dismissal in extreme cases.
Employers wishing to approach the use of e-cigarettes in the same way as cigarettes must ensure their smoking policy has been updated to reflect e-cigarettes and vaping. Individuals will have a right to recourse against their employer if they have been subject to disciplinary action when there is no policy in place governing use of e-cigarettes.
Employers can reduce the risk of being met with employment claims, including unfair and constructive dismissal, by instigating a policy on the use of e-cigarettes which clearly defines the procedures and penalties in place. If employees are aware of the potential sanctions for vaping in the workplace, then employers are far more likely to be able to show a Tribunal that their actions were reasonable.
Employers should ensure that any new practices or changes are communicated effectively to all staff and should make certain that there is transparency regarding the course of action should a breach occur.
Remember, those who vape are classed as ‘non smokers’ so don’t rely on using statutory smoking legislation as a catch-all policy.
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