Who isn’t familiar with the regulations regarding smoking in the workplace? Under the Health Act 2006, the government prohibited vaping in any enclosed or substantially enclosed place in England. There are similar bans under legislation in Wales and Scotland.
There isn’t a workplace in the country that isn’t ‘smoke-free’. Workers know it is against the law to smoke indoors at the office, warehouse, or any other place of employment.
For the employer, the 2006 Act also brought about some changes. The act placed an obligation on the controller or manager of smoke-free premises to make sure that no one smokes there.
Consequently, employers also have a duty to prevent smoking in their workplace. If they fail to do so, they may have to pay a fixed penalty or a fine. So, that’s crystal clear, but what about vaping?
The 2006 Act does not have any definitive restrictions regarding electronic cigarettes, so how do employers proactively manage vaping?
It is not illegal to vape at work as vape devices do not produce smoke from burning tobacco. There is also no legislation or regulation from the government that prohibits or restricts the use of electronic cigarettes at work.
The vaping culture is still trying to define its identity. Some people view it as a poor relation to smoking and dislike it, but companies like RELX UK are working proactively to change this perception.
Indeed, some view vaping as a way to empower cigarette smokers to reach their smoking cessation goals. Using a blend of science, technology and design, vaping is offering one solution among many so that the world can become a smoke-free zone.
Many employers do not provide vaping breaks but allow employees to partake during rest breaks or lunchtime. Some provide an area designated for cigarette smoking that doubles as a vaping area. However, are employers within their rights to ban e-cigarette devices onsite and could this even be discriminatory?
Public Health England published a report in July 2017 called “Use of e-cigarettes in public places and workplaces.“
PHE noted that vaping is significantly less harmful than smoking tobacco based on current evidence and suggested that employers should not routinely ban vaping or treat it the same as they would under the employer’s smoke-free regulations.
PHE reiterated that e-cigarettes do not fall within the Health Act 2006, although they did describe the legislation as poorly drafted.
The grey area has led to varied responses from employers and suggests any policy is purely at their discretion. Some employers treat e-cigarettes just like smoking tobacco and designate areas outside the premises, while others allow it entirely.
Employers are still working out their varied positions on vaping and how they want to manage it within their workplace.
There is currently no evidence to state that it is harmful, so banning vaping or marginalising it could fall foul of employee rights. For now, it is on employers to work with their employees to come to equitable conclusions.