The rise in popularity of ‘electronic cigarettes’ has fuelled workplace smoking rows according to HR and health & safety expert, Croner. Over the last few months Croner, part of global information services business Wolters Kluwer, has seen a substantial rise in calls to its advice lines from employers concerned about the use of e-cigarettes at work. E-cigarettes are an increasingly being used by smokers who view them as the ‘healthier’ alternative to traditional cigarettes or tobacco.
Basil Long, senior legal adviser at Croner, says: “From a legal perspective as e-cigarettes are not ‘lit’ then there is no reason why they cannot be used within the workplace. This may be acceptable for some employers, but the ones calling our advisory service are concerned about the use of e-cigarettes and wonder if they can either discipline an employee for ‘smoking’ at work or ban it altogether.
“The majority of workplace smoking policies do not specifically define smoking, and in the absence of any specific definition, a court of law would defer to the Health Act 2006 which define smoking as ‘lit tobacco or anything lit that contains tobacco, or of any other lit substance in a form in which it could be smoked’. As a result it would not be safe to rely on such a policy to discipline employees using e-cigarettes in the workplace. Therefore employers wishing to ban the use of e-cigarettes will need to amend their policy.
“A workplace smoking policy can normally be adapted very easily to extend the definition of smoking to include the use of e-cigarettes, however as with any other changes to employment policies, care needs to be taken to ensure the change is effective and not challenged by employees.”