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This came up this week.

Staff smoking is not as common as perhaps it was 10 years ago, but for many settings it’s still a challenge.

If you have a Dress Code,  or a Smoking Policy in your employee handbook or policies and procedures manual you can update it with your expectations for staff who smoke.

It’s worth mentioning that staff who smoke do not have any protection under UK law. It is not a disability to be addicted to nicotine and an employer is welcome to decline employment to someone on the basis that they are a smoker.

If you employ smokers and they want to be able to smoke during the working day it is a good idea to outline your expectations in advance of an issue. I would recommend setting out those expectations in your Smoking Policy.

Common requirements are:

  • Staff have to smoke wearing clothes that are removed prior to returning to work, so children/parents can’t smell the smoke on the clothes of the staff.
  • Requiring those who smoke to cover the smell on the breath with a mint before returning to work.
  • Requiring staff to wash hands before returning to work.
  • Outlining where staff can smoke.
  • Specifying that e-cigarettes are also not permitted to be smoked within the building, playground, car park, grounds etc.
  • Forbidding lighters and matches from being left unsecured (where they can fall out – we’ve had this once!)

If you determine that staff are in breach of your policies then disciplinary action would normally follow.

But remember, your policies are only as good as your willingness to enforce them. We all know the dangers of passive smoking and no one (even smokers) finds someone else’s second hand smoke smell attractive. If you aren’t going to enforce something in a policy- don’t add it in.

Make sure you consult with staff about any changes, a staff meeting and/or newsletter to the staff with those affected being given the opportunity to discuss with you before the new rules come into action. Always give notice as to when the new policies are in effect from.  No point issuing a policy on a Monday and stating these are the rules from last Friday.

Be prepared to explain why you are doing what you are doing. Don’t be afraid to ask someone at interview whether they smoke.

Let me know if you need any help with revising your policies.