How to manage smoke breaks at work

Many employers are feeling the wrath of non-smokers who object to their nicotine-addicted colleagues taking extra breaks to satisfy their habit during the working day.

More than a quarter of the adult population in the UK light up an average of 14 cigarettes a day, with a significant number of these occurring at work. Business consulting expert Croner Consulting receives up to a hundred calls a week from employers unsure how to manage smokers and non-smokers.

In fact, Richard Smith, employment law expert at Croner says, ‘neither smokers nor non-smokers have the right to request additional breaks and it is entirely down to the discretion of the employer.’

However, having said that, employers must be aware that they have a duty to treat all employees equally and deal with any disharmony in the workplace, such as the resentment hat may occur between non-smokers and smokers.

How to manage smoke breaks

Croner suggests that employers think about the following aspects of smoke break management:

  • Remember they do not have to agree to additional breaks for non-smoking employees and a grievance of this kind would not be a case for tribunal
  • Identify the scale of the problem; speak to smoking and non-smoking employees about their feelings and opinions
  • Satisfy any complainants that they are seriously considering the matter and as an employer they treat everyone fairly and equally
  • Clarify their policy on breaks at work. Ensure all employees are aware of breaks and reasonable time away from their workstation that they are entitled to in a day
  • Consider giving smoking employees the option to take a shorter lunch break and more smoking breaks
  • Communicate to non-smoking employees that they have the right to leave their workstation for their entitlement of refreshment breaks and smokers are not entitled to more breaks

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