A reader asked me if it was OK for her employer to require its staff that smoked to smoke only in a designated area at the back of the building. Normally that’s not a problem, but is it fair in inclement weather where there’s no protection from the elements?
Nikki Viljoen of Viljoen Consulting CC advises that the law does not oblige an employer to pander to the smoking requirements of its smoking staff! She goes on to say:
This is one article that really is going to upset a lot of people and yet also make a lot of people very happy. This is definitely one for the employer!
As an ex smoker myself, I am constantly aware of all the smoke, the cigarette smoke, the cigar smoke and even the pipe smoke that is constantly around me, invading my space. I am aware of the damage that I have done to myself and the damage that smokers are doing to themselves (and us ‘passive’ smokers too) on a daily basis.
As a business owner, I am also aware of the fact that I have to protect my staff from smokers in terms of the Tobacco Products Control Act. As you are all aware I am sure, there is “No Smoking” allowed in public places – restaurants and pubs have to have designated smoking areas and smoking is not allowed in malls and indeed in most office buildings.
Here’s the thing though, no where in the law does it state that as an employer, I have to pander to the smoking requirements of my smoking staff! I don’t have to give my employees ‘smoke breaks’, in fact I can actually make them work the time in that they take as ‘smoke breaks’ without having to pay them any kind of overtime at all or alternatively, I can tally up all the time that the smoker used on ‘smoke breaks’ and deduct it from their wages at the end of the week and/or from their salaries at the end of the month! How cool is that?
I can ban smoking from the building altogether and I can choose exactly which area can be used for smoking purposes and there is no where that it is written that I have to provide shelter from the elements either. So if I choose to designate the car park as the smoking area and it is bucketing with rain – well quite frankly, sorry for you!
Think about it for a moment, as an employer I don’t have to provide my alcoholic employee with a ‘drinks break’ so why would I feel the need to supply my smoker with a ‘smoke break’ particularly if I am as anti smoking as most other ‘ex smokers’? Both are addictions? Both take time out of the workplace which impacts on the bottom line and both have serious health implications.
Now surely that is an incentive for smokers to quit, whilst they are still ahead!
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