HR BLOG: No Smoking Day

DON’T think you need a Smoking Policy? Think again.

For No Smoking Day, our blog dispels the smoke and mirrors around cigarettes in the workplace, and informs you of your responsibilities in keeping a smoke-free working environment.

First, some good news: smoking rates in the UK continue to fall. We are in the midst of a vast change in culture around cigarettes, as the smoking ban has taken effect and the health risk messages start to sink in. Still, though, 10 million adults smoke! So it’s likely that even smaller businesses will have a smoker in the workforce. Being in the know regarding the law and learning how to manage smoking within your team are vital.

To the law: Businesses must ensure that smokers don’t light up in enclosed workspaces, or vehicles that more than one occupant may use. No smoking signs should be displayed (if you’re in Wales, you’ll also need a sign in Welsh). Fines are given to those that fail to abide by the Smoking Ban.

Are the new laws working? Heart attacks linked to smoking have plummeted by 42% since the ban was introduced in 2007. A majority of other studies have found significant reductions in strokes and respiratory disease too. The stats speak for themselves.

You know the health risks already, but what about the risks and costs of smoking to a business? Studies link smoking habits to increased sickness absences and general absenteeism – a symptom of the health risks no doubt. When staff are away on smoking related sick leave, whilst your primary concern will be for their welfare, it’s important to consider that your productivity will take a hit.

What about smoking breaks? It wouldn’t surprise you to know that the time taken for a member of staff to head out of the office to have a cigarette (and maybe a chat!) really adds up. Depending on the business and its culture, smoking breaks could tot up to anything from 5 to 45 minutes a day. Over a year this could potentially equal an extra week of holiday! Aside from the direct cost of these breaks to the business, employers need to ensure that they play fair with employees that don’t smoke. Granting breaks to only one group is bound to cause resentment. Failing to deal with complaints of this nature could leave you in breach of contract.

Last week saw the UK take part in the 33rd annual No Smoking Day, so now is as good a time as any to explore the resources available to businesses in supporting staff to quit smoking. Check out the No Smoking Day website for that. You can also find out more about the alternatives to smoking that people use to help them quit, such as nicotine patches, gum, and now e-cigarettes…

If you’re unfamiliar with e-cigarettes, they’ve only come on the scene in the last couple of years. Recently their popularity has exploded. They sound like the perfect solution: no ash, no fire, they’re not banned, and they smell a whole lot better! Their future may not be so rosy though. No evidence really exists on the health risks of e-cigarettes, and still a lot of employers don’t want their employees to be seen smoking e-cigarettes whilst on work premises. You’re within your right to ban the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace, just as with normal cigarettes. In fact, the majority of businesses that do have an e-cigarette policy in place have banned it.

For more info, visit HR Dept Durham and Darlington.