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Can employers ban e-cigarettes in the workplace?

Whether or not to allow e-smoking is a matter for individual employers to decide

The balance is definitely on the side of etiquette rather than law when it comes to choosing whether or not to allow e-cigarettes in the workplace, and the BBC in Salford recently decided that it was not good etiquette for employees to be using e-cigarettes indoors. Other BBC locations were less clear leading to staff complaining about the lack of uniformity of direction.

Whether or not to allow e-smoking is a matter for individual employers to decide – there is no law that entitles e-smokers to be able to smoke in the workplace nor can an e-smoker complain of discrimination if they are not allowed to partake in the workplace as the Equality Act does not list e-smoking as one of the 9 ‘protected characteristics’ that qualify for legal protection.

Common sense and the opinions of employees are a better basis for decision making – if 9 out of 10 employees want to use e-cigarettes then there are strong employee relations arguments in favour of allowing this, but it is equally valid to consider customer and visitor reactions if deciding to ban them. Either way employers are strongly advised to be consistent when implementing their decision and myhrdept advises the following:

  • Make a decision on whether or not you will permit the use of e-cigarettes
  • Tell employees of the decision and the reason for it
  • Update your smoking policy and circulate a copy to employees – the policy should make clear the consequences for breach
  • Ensure people managers are aware of the policy and how to enforce it

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