Banning e-cigarettes in enclosed spaces will help to clarify an area that has sparked rows in workplaces across the UK say Wolters Kluwer’s HR and Health & Safety experts Croner.

Over the last three years, Croner’s Business Support Helpline has seen a sharp increase in calls as e-cigarettes have grown in popularity.

Mike Allen, Croner MD at Wolters Kluwer, said:

“Smoking in enclosed (or substantially enclosed) public places, including workplaces was banned in July 2007. However, the legislation does not apply to e-cigarettes as they do not appear to fall within the definition of “smoking”. This has presented employers with a dilemma of whether or not e-cigarettes should be used within the workplace.

“The fact that ministers in Wales are looking to ban e-cigarettes in enclosed spaces, will massively help employers with this increasingly difficult area, as there are currently no rules for them to follow.”

There are a number of issues surrounding e-cigarette use in the workplace:

  • employers are under a statutory duty to protect the health and safety of the workforce
  • the use of e-cigarettes at work may not fit in with the intended professional image of the organisation and its likely promotion of employee wellbeing.

Mr Allen, says: “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’. At present there is no evidence to indicate that there are any health effects from e-cigarettes, therefore it’s up to the employer to decide whether they are permitted in the workplace and enforce a ban through the organisation’s internal policies.

“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.”

Title image courtesy of Xavierrap23 via Wikimedia Commons