Electronic cigarettes look like the real thing but contain a rechargeable battery and a liquid that contains nicotine. Vaping is when you inhale the vapour produced when the battery heats up.
With a rise in sales, and public and medical opinion very divided, e-cigarettes have the potential to become a smoking gun in the workplace!
SHOULD EMPLOYERS ALLOW VAPING AT WORK?
There is currently no law covering the use of e-cigarettes, although if it is introduced in the UK or Europe (expected in 2016), Jersey and Guernsey may do likewise.
In the absence of legislation, it is for each employer to determine their own policy. The size of your organisation and the type of work may be determining factors for your policy, as well as how many vapers you have in your workforce.
Vaping is the type of issue on which you could consult before determining a policy. This could be done by way of an anonymous survey.
However, if you consult, you need to be prepared to provide feedback at the end of the consultation and if it transpires that the majority wish vaping to be permitted, you need to have a good idea as to how you will manage the minority who do not want it. Most employers will be concerned that if they permit vaping, it will split the workforce and distract or upset the non-vapers, and accordingly decide to ban it.
Employers may decide that vaping does not fit with their corporate image and ban it. If so, this needs to be communicated clearly to staff (who must appreciate that a breach could mean that disciplinary action may follow), but also to clients or suppliers attending the workplace.
If the work involves any contact with children, an outright ban is advisable.
If you have a number of staff who are currently smokers but who have taken up vaping with the intention of trying to give up, you may decide to support them by allowing vaping on a trial basis (possibly for 6 months) and then review.
If you permit it, you need to communicate where within your workplace the vaping can take place and, also, that any time spent vaping will be monitored. Those vaping should not have any additional break time in order to vape, as this would be unfair to the non-vapers.
Allowing vaping, even on a trial basis, is a potentially risky strategy as it could ignite a personal dispute.
IF A WORK COLLEAGUE LIGHTS UP AN E-CIGARETTE IN THE OFFICE, WHAT CAN YOU DO?
You could politely ask the vaper to stop at work because you find it unpleasant or distracting.
If they continue, you could consult others working close by, or the vaper's manager, to see how they feel. If there is a consensus that it is offensive, the vaper should be informed, and told that if they ignore this informal request, the matter will be taken to the next level.
If the vaping continues, a grievance procedure will need to be implemented, forcing your employer to take action and make a decision.
WHAT ABOUT AT SOCIAL EVENTS?
Employers may be able to adopt a more flexible approach, and be seen to support any vapers who are genuinely trying to give up cigarettes.
If there are others vaping at the same venue it would seem unreasonable to insist that your staff refrain.
Prior to booking next year's Christmas bash, you may wish to ask whether the venue permits vaping, so that it does not become an argument on the night.
If the public view becomes that vaping is as socially unacceptable as smoking, we may well see vaping bans and areas specifically designated for vapers.
INTRODUCING A POLICY
If you require any advice on how to introduce a policy, or how to respond to breaches of a policy (contractual or non contractual), the Collas Crill employment team will be pleased to assist.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.