Are Smoking Breaks a Thing of the Past in the Workplace?
Smoking breaks at work - the UK law
I recently came across a news article that stated that Nottingham Council are considering implementing a staff smoking break ban. This ban is set to affect thousands of employees as no smoking signs invade what were previously approved smoking zones. The new smoking breaks policy is to include e-cigarettes and will also prevent staff in uniform smoking on their journey to and from the workplace.
The article raised a number of questions for me:
Are smoking breaks at work law?
The answer to this question was a surprise to me, perhaps it will be to you.
An employee is legally entitled to a rest break of 20 minutes within a six hour period, however, a worker has no right to a break that is specifically for the purpose of smoking. An employee can however, use their statutory rest break to smoke, provided that they meet the employers regulations on smoking around the outside areas of the workplace. The smoking areas should be obvious as they should display smoking or no smoking signs.
Can my employer stop me from taking smoking breaks?
Yes! But would they?
Your employer can not prevent you from smoking in your statutory break, which is most usually given as a lunch break. If breaks are taken outside of the statutory rest break your behaviour could be treated as misconduct. However, most employers “informally” allow their staff to take smoking breaks. Just be sure to know where you stand.
Most employers tend not to impose restrictions on smokers and are happy to accept that if people want to smoke they will and only ask that it be done within reason. This approach is more favourable for the morale of the workplace.
Where does that leave the non-smokers?
Can I take smoking breaks as a non-smoker?
Smoking breaks in the workplace can often cause a feeling of resentment amongst the non-smokers who could feel they are missing out on breaks. If this situation should arise your employer should deal with the claim in an official manner and follow it up within the guidelines of the company grievance procedure. Alternatively your employer could ensure that all staff get the same amount of breaks, which again is a more favourable approach for the morale of the workforce.
What would you do with your “no smoking” breaks? Catch up on social media or grab some fresh air and stretch your legs?
The Invasion of the No Smoking Sign
To be honest, I don’t think that it will be too long before smoking is a thing of the past at work, let alone smoking breaks at work. The government are already debating the banning of smoking in outdoor public places, which could include public entrances and exits to buildings. Bristol is already taking a stance and have banned smoking in two of their public squares as a result of anti-smoking campaigners displaying no smoking messages.
What do you think? Have your say in the comments.